“I am too young to have these problems,” says a 70-year-old woman seeing me for pelvic floor physical therapy, when speaking of her personal struggle with urinary and bowel incontinence. She went on to say it’s something that seems more appropriate to affect the “very elderly, like those in nursing homes.” This is ironic and sad in so many ways, but first goes to the frank ageism associated with pelvic floor disorders affecting continence. EVERYONE thinks it is always an old lady’s problem, even when the person saying it is considered to be “older” by many peoples’ standards.
The truth is that incontinence affects children, adolescents, teens and women throughout the entire lifespan – not just those that have had babies or those that are “old.” The further truth is that it is never “normal” – an unavoidable consequence of aging – and improvement or full resolution of symptoms is common with treatment. My youngest patient for incontinence was 13, an athlete who couldn’t control her bladder during competitive running. Sadly, she wasn’t alone. She said that at least half of the girls on her team experienced similar problems. Incontinence and other pelvic floor disorders do not discriminate based on age – they show up whenever there is a failing(s) in the complex machinery and control systems in the body. Many ages, many factors, many solutions, and never, never normal.
Visit the women’s bladder and bowel health section on ShareMayFlowers.org for more information.