Dementia patients face risk of urinary, fecal incontinence

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Researcher Robert Grant
Researcher Robert Grant

Seniors with dementia are two to three times more likely to have urinary incontinence and four times more likely to have fecal incontinence, according to a new study.

British researchers examined the records of more than 200,000 seniors, about a quarter of whom had dementia, to see whether dementia affected incontinence diagnoses. 

The investigators found 42 out of 1,000 men with dementia had a diagnosis of urinary incontinence, compared to 20 out of 1,000 men without dementia. Eleven out of 1,000 men with dementia were diagnosed with fecal incontinence, whereas three out of 1,000  men without dementia had fecal incontinence.

Among women with dementia, 34 in 1,000 had urinary incontinence, and 10 in 1,000 had fecal incontinence. Comparatively, 19 in 1,000 women without dementia had urinary incontinence, and 10 had fecal incontinence.

These seniors were also more likely to receive treatment for their incontinence and indwelling catheters, which increases their risk of urinary tract infections. 

“It's well-known that catheters are best avoided in this population because of the risks around infection and complications,” said Robert L. Grant, senior lecturer in Health & Social Care Statistics at St. George's, University of London & Kingston University. 

The study is available in PLOS Medicine.