New Insights from RUSH Study: Link Between Urinary Incontinence and Increased Disability Risk in Women

by | May 9, 2024 | Women | 0 comments

Recent research from RUSH Medical Center has shed light on the broader health implications of urinary incontinence, a condition affecting 30% to 50% of women. Published in the January issue of Menopause, the study highlights a concerning association between the severity of urinary incontinence and an increased likelihood of disability in midlife women.

Dr. Sheila Dugan, Chair of the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at RUSH, stresses the importance of not dismissing urinary incontinence symptoms until they become severely disruptive. She suggests that early intervention could play a crucial role in reducing the risk of disability associated with this condition.

Understanding Urinary Incontinence
Urinary incontinence manifests in various forms, notably stress incontinence and urge incontinence. Stress incontinence involves leakage due to abdominal pressure from actions like coughing, whereas urge incontinence is marked by a sudden, intense need to urinate.

The RUSH study meticulously analysed the frequency and volume of urinary leakage among participants, categorising them into groups based on their incontinence type, including stress, urge, or mixed incontinence. The assessment of disability was conducted using the World Health Organisation’s disability assessment scale.

Correlation Between Incontinence and Disability
The research found a significant correlation between mixed urinary incontinence and higher disability rates. Factors such as daily occurrences of incontinence and greater volumes of urine leakage also showed a strong association with increased disability levels.
Dr. Dugan, who was instrumental in establishing the Program for Abdominal and Pelvic Health at RUSH, underscores the criticality of early treatment. The program offers comprehensive evaluations to determine the underlying causes of incontinence, including an assessment of pelvic floor muscle function distinguishing between issues of muscle tightness or weakness.

Identifying Underlying Causes

The study notes that pelvic floor muscle health is pivotal in supporting pelvic organs, with incontinence potentially stemming from a range of causes, from hip arthritis and childbirth complications to cancer treatments like pelvic radiation.

Data for this groundbreaking study was sourced from the SWAN (Study of Women Across the Nation) clinical trial, initiated in 1994, involving over 1,800 participants. Dr. Dugan emphasises the need for ongoing research to understand the connection between urinary incontinence and disability, with a focus on prevention.

As medical understanding evolves, it becomes evident that addressing urinary incontinence in its early stages is not just about improving life quality for midlife women. It may also be a key strategy in preventing the onset of disability, marking a significant step forward in women’s health care.

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