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May 12, 1989

Urinary Incontinence in Adults

JAMA. 1989;261(18):2685-2690. doi:10.1001/jama.1989.03420180109040

Urinary incontinence, the involuntary loss of urine so severe as to have social and/or hygienic consequences, is a major clinical problem and a significant cause of disability and dependency. Urinary incontinence affects all age groups and is particularly common in the elderly. At least 10 million adult Americans suffer from urinary incontinence, including approximately 15% to 30% of community-dwelling older people and at least half of all nursing home residents. The monetary costs of managing urinary incontinence are conservatively estimated at $10.3 billion annually and the psychosocial burden of urinary incontinence is great.

Urinary incontinence is a symptom rather than a disease. It appears in a limited number of clinical patterns, each having several possible causes. In some cases, the disorder is transient, secondary to an easily reversed cause such as a medication or an acute illness like urinary tract infection. Many cases are chronic, however, lasting indefinitely unless properly