Urinary incontinence can be an issue at any age, but seniors are sometimes more vulnerable to bladder control problems due to underlying medical conditions. While it can be an embarrassing and frustrating problem, you should discuss any changes in bladder control with your physician. There may be more serious health concerns causing you to experience these changes.

What causes urinary incontinence? There are many factors that can contribute to bladder control issues, including:

  • Nerve damage caused by Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, or diabetes
  • Weak bladder muscles
  • Overactive bladder muscles
  • Prostate issues in men (such as a blockage in an enlarged prostate, an injury, damage from surgery, or prostatitis)
  • Pelvic organ prolapse
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Constipation

There are four different types of incontinence: stress, urge, overflow, and functional. Stress incontinence may be noticed at any earlier age, and can be brought on by pressure on the bladder. Laughing, sneezing, or coughing can unexpectedly cause urine leakage. Some women notice it after giving birth or as they approach menopause. Urge incontinence refers to the sudden need to urinate and the inability to hold it due to other medical conditions, such as a stroke or arthritis. Overflow incontinence can be a side effect of diabetes or spinal cord injuries. If the bladder never completely empties, small amounts of urine may leak. Functional incontinence occurs when an individual with a normal and healthy urinary tract simply cannot get to the bathroom as needed due to other medical problems or age.

If you notice any consistent changes in your bladder control, make an appointment with your doctor. If your doctor considers it necessary, tests including blood work and urine analysis, can be used to help diagnosis any underlying health issues. Your physician may suggest you keep a bladder diary and/or visit a urologist, a specialist in the urinary tract system.

Treatment for incontinence can vary based on the severity of the condition and underlying medical problems that may be causing it. Your doctor may recommend pelvic muscle exercises, such as Kegel exercises, bladder training, and lifestyle changes. Scheduled trips to the bathroom, along with dietary changes and fluid management, can help reduce incontinence. For severe cases of urinary incontinence, there are medical devices, interventional therapies, and surgeries that may resolve your issue.

How Medicare Can Help

While Medicare does not cover the cost of incontinence supplies or adult diapers, Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance) can help cover the costs of doctor services and tests needed to diagnosis your condition, such as X-rays, lab work, and more, as long as your doctor participates in Medicare and accepts assignment.  If you are formally admitted to a hospital due to surgery to resolve severe urological problems, Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance) may help cover the costs of your stay in a Medicare-approved hospital. If your physician prescribes medication to treat your incontinence, Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage can help cover the cost of your drugs. Each Prescription Drug Plan (PDP) or Medicare Advantage plan with prescription drug coverage will have its own formulary, or list of covered drugs, and its own tiers of pricing. Check with your plan to make sure your specific medication will be covered.

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