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As humans progress through different stages of life, our bodies undergo various physiological changes, and urological health is no exception. The term “urologic diseases” encompasses conditions related to the filtering and carrying of urine out of the body. These diseases can affect people from all walks of life; men, women, and children of all ages. In females, they involve the urinary tract, whereas in males, they affect the urinary tract OR the reproductive organs.
In this article, however, we will only be looking at urological changes in the elderly as they address the unique needs and challenges associated with aging and also look at some tips to maintain urological wellness in the later stages of life.
The anatomy of the urinary system comprises several components such as:
Some of the natural, age-related changes to these organs include:
Experiencing some or all of these issues may then lead to changes in urination patterns.
Overview of some of the most common urological diseases
This condition happens when there is a loss of bladder control which subsequently leads to unwanted leakage of urine. There are 3 main types of urinary incontinence, namely:
Due to the combination of weakened pelvic floor muscles, reduced bladder capacity and changes in the nerve signaling, urinary incontinence incidences increase more and more among older individuals.
UTIs are the result of pathogenic bacteria or viruses invading the urinary tract, causing an infection. A common hallmark of a UTI is a burning sensation felt or pain when urinating. Others include increased urination frequency, and the feeling that the bladder is not completely empty, even after urinating.
Women are generally more susceptible to UTI due to changes in estrogen levels during the menopausal period which leads to thinning of the urethral lining, although men can get them too. Other factors such as weaker immune responses and potential bladder retention issues may also increase the susceptibility to UTIs.
Kidney stones usually develop among aging individuals as there are changes in the calcium metabolism and when urine becomes too concentrated, causing crystallization of the minerals.
BPH refers to a non-cancerous swelling/enlargement of the prostate in men, which can lead to frequent urination. This enlargement would obstruct urine and flow, therefore causing symptoms such as difficulty starting or stopping urination, more frequent urination, weak urine stream and a feeling of incomplete emptying.
It is a fairly common condition seen in older men, possibly due to an increasing dihydrotestosterone (DHT) within the prostate as they age. While BPH is not considered a serious or life-threatening condition, it can significantly impact a man’s quality of life due to the urinary symptoms it causes, hence early detection such as routine screening is highly encouraged.
POP refers to a condition where one or more pelvic organs, such as the bladder, uterus or rectum shift from their normal positions and either bulge or descend into the vaginal or anal canal. Some reasons this may occur include weakened pelvic floor muscles and connective tissues, leading to a loss of support for the organs within the pelvic cavity.
A prolapse is not an emergency or life-threatening but it can cause pain and discomfort. Symptoms can usually be improved with just routine pelvic floor exercises and lifestyle modifications. In severe cases, medical treatment may be needed.
Other urological conditions that we may know of include:
Symptoms of urological conditions are diverse and can actually mean other underlying diseases. Hence, a comprehensive screening is required to accurately diagnose and treat the condition. Screening is especially crucial for patients presented with persisting, recurring urological conditions as early identification is always key in treating these problems. Screening may include:
While all the above symptoms seem common, you may consider making an appointment with an urologist should you have the following symptoms:
If you are a man, you should also make a visit to the urologist if you:
To manage urological health effectively as people age, regular medical check-ups, screenings, and discussions with urologists or healthcare providers should be prioritized. Lifestyle modifications, such as staying hydrated, maintaining a healthy diet, engaging in regular exercise, avoiding tobacco as well as excessive alcohol along with pelvic floor exercises (Kegel exercises) can also contribute to better urological health in later years.
This article is written by Janelle Leong, Bpharm(Hons) (DOC2US),
reviewed by Dr. Muhamad Syaqir bin Shukri, MBBS (DOC2US).
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