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What can cause bladder problems in older women?

Diana Meeks
Diana Meeks on behalf of Sigma Nursing
Family Practitioner

A variety health issues, including nerve damage, diabetes, anxiety and illnesses such as multiple sclerosis or stroke can cause urge incontinence or overactive bladder in older women. These bladder problems can also be caused by some medications. Menopause-related stress incontinence can also be an issue for older women.

The bladder has two functions:

  • store urine
  • empty on demand

There are many things that cause problems emptying the bladder at any age. In women over 50, bladder problems are mainly related to menopause and the experience of childbearing. Menopause causes estrogen levels to drop. Estrogen has many roles in a woman. In the vagina, it helps maintain vaginal tissue and prevent bacteria from infecting the urinary tract. There is an increase in urinary tract infections in older women after menopause because of lower estrogen levels.

Childbirth and prior surgery, like a hysterectomy, can also lead to a decline in vaginal tissue. This can lead to the falling down of organs (prolapse) with either incontinence (leaking of urine) or urinary retention (inability to completely empty the bladder).

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

Menopause is the most common reason women develop bladder problems as they age. Changes that occur in the body at midlife weaken bladder muscles, which can result in urine leaks.

With age also comes increased risk for developing medical conditions such as diabetes and multiple sclerosis, both of which can trigger bladder problems. Likewise, certain medications seem to interfere with healthy bladder functioning.

Bladder problems can be embarrassing and frustrating. Talk to your doctor about strategies that can help.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.