Osteoporosis weakens more than just bones, as new research suggests it is closely linked to incontinence in older women.
Middle-aged and older women with osteoporosis have a much higher incidence of incontinence, a 2009 Canadian study found.
Now, the Continence Foundation of Australia says a study being undertaken by the University of Newcastle and the University of Queensland, of more than 30,000 women, has found more evidence of the link.
Associate Professor Pauline Chiarelli, who is involved in the research, says they are examining whether the connection could be caused by height loss associated with curvature of the spine.
The CFA says it is well understood that women with osteoporosis lose height because of the spinal deformity associated with vertebral fractures.
It says there is also a body of research showing that curvature of the spine increases the risk of pelvic organ prolapse as the result of the subsequent altered positioning of the organs, muscles and bones within the abdominal cavity.
According to the researchers, the altered forces pushing down from the abdomen onto the bladder as a result of the spinal deformity may be implicated in incontinence. The link, however, would not be as strong for mid-aged women who would be unlikely to have spinal deformity in the early stages of the disease.
Osteoporosis occurs predominantly in women older than 55, with 1.2 million Australians estimated to have the condition.
A/Prof Chiarelli says that women who are diagnosed with osteoporosis need to be screened for, and educated about the increased risk of urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse.
“Currently, an average of one osteopathic fracture takes place in Australia every eight minutes, and this is expected to more than double in seven years’ time if the trend continues,” says Dr Chiarelli.
“Osteoporosis is life changing, debilitating, painful and associated with high morbidity and some mortality, but it’s very common and very preventable.”