Understanding Urinary Incontinence in Adults

Angela Testa, MSN, AGPCNP-BC


Urol Nurs. 2015;35(2):82-86. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


This article aims to assist urologic nurses in the assessment and management of adults with urinary incontinence, with special consideration given to the geriatric patient. Additionally, discussion will include classifications of the disorder, risk factors, and applicable age-related impacts.


Urinary incontinence (UI) is defined as "the complaint of any involuntary leakage of urine" (Abrams et al., 2002). This highly bothersome and prevalent condition negatively impacts the quality of life of nearly 17 million adults in the United States (U.S.). The total national economic burden of UI, projected to be $76.2 billion by 2015, results from costs associated with direct management, routine care, and associated complications and comorbidities (Coyne et al., 2014). Perceptions of mental and general health are negatively impacted as patients attempt to cope with the embarrassment and interference of UI in their daily life (Tang et al., 2014). Despite this, patients rarely initiate discussion of UI issues with their primary health care providers, emphasizing the importance of provider identification of at-risk patients (Trutnovsky et al., 2014).

While UI affects 30% of younger adults, older adults represent the highest incidence of UI; 30% to 50% of women and 17% of men older than age 60 are troubled by the disorder (Berardelli et al., 2013; Buttaro, Trybulski, Bailey, & Sandberg-Cook, 2013). Urinary incontinence interferes with physical, social, and role functioning of the older adult. The burden of UI on the caregiver and elderly recipient influences nursing home placement because 50% to 60% of long-term care residents are unable to sustain normal urinary function (DuBeau, Kuchel, Johnson, Palmer, & Wagg, 2010; Tang et al., 2014).