Urinary Incontinence Runs in the Family

Relatives of Incontinent Women More Likely to Share Problem

From the WebMD Archives

Oct. 14, 2004 -- Sisters and daughters of women with urinary incontinence are more likely to face the same problem as they get older, a new study shows.

Urinary incontinence or loss of urine control is a common problem among women, especially among older women. It's a symptom of a problem in the lower urinary tract that can be caused by a variety of factors, such as childbirth, advancing age, obesity, and persistent bladder infections.

But a Norwegian study shows that genetics may also play a role. Researchers found women whose mothers or older sisters were incontinent were 30%-60% more likely to develop urinary incontinence.

Urinary Incontinence Runs in the Family

In the study researchers followed more than 2,000 Norwegian women with urinary incontinence and their relatives and compared them with nearly 6,000 healthy women. The findings appear in the Oct. 16 issue of the BMJ.

The study showed that women whose mothers had urinary incontinence were at 30% greater risk of being incontinent themselves. If the mother had severe symptoms, their daughters were also twice as likely to have severe urinary incontinence.

In addition, researchers found that women had a 60% higher risk of urinary incontinence if their older sisters were incontinent.

The study showed that the increased familial risk extended to both types of urinary incontinence, stress and urge.

Stress urinary incontinence is the most common form of incontinence and is an involuntary release of urine when pressure is put on the abdomen, such as during exercising or sneezing. Urge urinary incontinence causes an urge to urinate even if the bladder only contains a small amount of urine.

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SOURCE: Hannestad, Y. BMJ, Oct. 16, 2004; vol 329: pp 889-891.
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