Frequent urination during the day or at nighttime affects millions of people 50 years and older including those who otherwise consider themselves pretty healthy. We often receive questions like this, “I am only 55. I exercise regularly, eat right and have a healthy weight. Why do I have to pee so often?” Although the common causes for frequent urination are associated with medical conditions, side effects of medications, obesity, nerve damages, etc., an aging bladder plays an important role in frequent urination.
Aging Bladder and Frequent Urination
The normal functions of the bladder are urine storage and urine expulsion at the right intervals. These functions could be impaired when age changes the structure of the bladder.
Scientists in Austria conducted a study on 436 men and women aged 40 to 93. The scientists found significant age-related changes in the lower urinary track, including the bladder and the urethra.
Here are some of their findings in the aging bladder.
- Reduced bladder capacity-the amount of urine a bladder can hold is reduced.
- Decreased voided volume – the amount of the urine the bladder can empty is decreased.
- Increase of post void residual volume in bladder- the amount of the urine remaining in the bladder after you void the bladder is increased.
- Significant decrease in functional urethral length and maximum urethral closing pressure in older women – The urethra is a part of the clamping mechanism that keeps the urine stored inside the bladder. When women age, the clamping function of the urethra become loose alerting the brain of the need to urinate – to constantly look for the next bathroom to prevent embarrassing leaking.
- Decreased peak flow rate and average flow rate –You need to spend more time peeing because the outflow of urine is slower, especially in older men experiencing a change in prostate size.
Dr. Resnick, NM, MD, at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, published a study that shows in the aging bladder the detrusor muscles of the bladder wall become hyperactive, while at the same time, the bladder cannot empty effectively. Taken together these structural and functional changes in the aging bladder can cause the bladder to store less urine, empty less effectively and be more prone to leaking. These could all cause frequent urination, even in healthy people.
Aging impacts all of our physical systems, and the bladder and the lower urinary track are no exception. To live a productive and independent life as we age, we need to take a holistic and proactive approach to take care of our whole body – including our bladder.
To your health.
• Urology. 1998 Feb;51(2):206-12. Madersbacher S et al., Department of Urology, University of Vienna, Austria.
• JAMA, 1987 Jun 12;257(22):3076-81. Resnick NM, Yalla SV.