Pelvic floor disorders affect almost half of women over 80

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Nearly 50% of women aged 80 or older experience a pelvic floor disorder, which can take the form of urinary incontinence, fecal incontinence or pelvic organ prolapse, according to a new report.

Researchers at the University of Utah School of Medicine reviewed information on nearly 2,000 women over the age of 20 who took part in the 2005-2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. A total of 16% of the women experienced moderate to severe urinary incontinence, 9% reported experiencing an episode of fecal leakage at least once a month, and 2.9% had some form of pelvic organ prolapse, in which one of the pelvic organs drops and presses on the vagina. Overall, 23.7% of all women experienced at least one symptom.

Almost half of older women are likely to experience a pelvic floor disorder, compared with only 10% of younger women. Most pelvic floor disorders go unreported because the patient feels embarrassed by the condition, according researchers. All pelvic floor disorders are treatable and women should not hesitate to bring them up with their physicians, say the report's authors. The study was published in the September 17 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.