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Incontinence Drugs May Cause Memory Problems in the Elderly

Filed April 18th, 2008 amy

According to IMS Health, which tracks drug sales, more than $3 billion worth of were sold in the U.S. in 2007. And accordig to the National Institute on Aging, one in ten people over age 65 will experience bladder control problems. Women are more likely to be affected than men. Causes include nerve damage, loss of muscle tone or, in men, enlarged prostate.

Yet commonly used incontinence drugs may cause memory problems in some older people, a study has found. The U.S. Navy neurologist Dr. Jack Tsao, who led the study, tells the Associated Press, “It may be better to use diapers and be able to think clearly than the other way around.” Tsao adds that urinary incontinence sometimes can often be resolved with non-drug treatments, so he encourages patients to seek alternatives before going straight for prescription medication. Other options include exercises, biofeedback and keeping to a schedule of bathroom breaks, he says.

The American Academy of Neurology met Thursday and discussed the results of the study, which came from an analysis of the medication use and cognitive test scores of 870 older Catholic priests, nuns and brothers who participated in the Religious Orders Study at Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center. The average age was 75. Researchers tracked them for nearly eight years, testing yearly for cognitive decline. They asked them to recite strings of numbers backward and forward, to name as many different kinds of fruit as they could in one minute and to complete other challenges during the annual testing.

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