Examining Why Women With Urinary Incontinence Do Not Step Forward

As the growing population gets older, more people are being faced with medical conditions typically associated with the elderly population. Some may not want to admit they are aging while others may just feel uncomfortable talking about the subject, as some patients prefer to not or refuse to speak to their healthcare providers about medical conditions they may be experiencing, such as urinary incontinence.

Although more than a third of middle-aged women or older deal with the signs and symptoms of urinary incontinence, less than half of those women receive treatment or even an evaluation for their condition. An observational study was conducted to attempt to determine why so many women that suffer from this condition do not come forward for assistance. 969 women aged forty and older who reported at least weekly incontinence were included in the study, including 55% from racial or ethnic minorities and 55% discussing their condition with their doctor at some point. It was found that women were less likely to talk about their condition if their household income was less than thirty thousand dollars a year or if they were diabetic. Being of the black race or having the low income were associated with not discussing their condition but all those participating that had severe cases were more likely to address it.

Overall the study found that lower income and concomitant diabetes were associated with lower likelihood of women speaking with their doctors about their urinary incontinence.

Even though this condition is associated with depression, social isolation, and admission to long-term care facilities, women continue to keep urinary incontinence a secret. Do you think there is anything society can do as a whole to make this taboo less embarrassing? Or do you think we as pharmacists could play a bigger role in making these patients more comfortable? Or perhaps healthcare professionals as a whole may seem unapproachable to those of lower socioeconomic status; how can we change that?

Reference: Duralde ER, Walter LC, Van Den Eeden SK, et al. Bridging the gap: determinants of undiagnosed or untreated urinary incontinence in women. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2016; 214(2): 266.