Urogenital consequences in ageing women

Best Pract Res Clin Obstet Gynaecol. 2013 Oct;27(5):699-714. doi: 10.1016/j.bpobgyn.2013.03.007. Epub 2013 Jun 12.


Various anatomical, physiological, genetic, lifestyle and reproductive factors interact throughout a woman's life span and contribute to pelvic floor disorders. Ageing affects pelvic floor anatomy and function, which can result in a variety of disorders, such as pelvic organ prolapse, lower urinary tract symptoms, dysfunctional bowel and bladder evacuation, and sexual dysfunction. The exact mechanisms and pathophysiological processes by which ageing affects pelvic floor and lower urinary and gastrointestinal tract anatomy and function are not always clear. In most cases, it is difficult to ascertain the exact role of ageing per se as an aetiological, predisposing or contributing factor. Other conditions associated with ageing that may co-exist, such as changes in mental status, can result in different types of pelvic floor dysfunction (e.g. functional incontinence). Pelvic organ dysfunction may be associated with significant morbidity and affect quality of life. These groups of patients often pose difficult diagnostic and therapeutic dilemmas owing to complex medical conditions and concurrent morbidities. In this chapter, we summarise the current evidence on the management of pelvic floor disorders, with emphasis on elderly women and the associations between the ageing process and these disorders. Clinicians with an understanding of the affect of ageing on the pelvic floor and lower urinary and gastrointestinal tract anatomy and function, and the complex interplay of other comorbidities, will be able to investigate, diagnose and treat appropriately there women. A holistic approach may result in substantial improvements in their quality of life.

Keywords: ageing; anal incontinence; elderly; female; lower urinary tract symptoms; pelvic organ dysfunction; prolapse; urinary incontinence.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Fecal Incontinence / physiopathology
  • Fecal Incontinence / therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Pelvic Floor / physiopathology
  • Pelvic Floor Disorders / physiopathology
  • Pelvic Floor Disorders / therapy
  • Pelvic Organ Prolapse / physiopathology
  • Pelvic Organ Prolapse / therapy*
  • Quality of Life
  • Urinary Incontinence / physiopathology
  • Urinary Incontinence / therapy*