Genitourinary System Changes

A number of changes in the genitourinary system occur as the body ages. Look at these changes.

a. Even without kidney disease, aging causes the kidneys to lose some of their ability to concentrate urine. With aging, progressively more water is needed to excrete the same amount of waste. Therefore, it is necessary for older persons to drink more water than young people. Older people eliminate larger amounts of urine (polyuria) even at night (nocturia).

b. Beginning at about age 40, there is a decrease in the number and size of the nephrons. Often, more than 50 percent of the nephrons are lost before age 80.

c. There may be an increase in blood urea nitrogen (BUN) without serious symptoms.

d. The elderly are more susceptible than young people to infections of the urinary system.

e. Childbearing may have caused damage to the musculature of the pelvic floor. Years later, this damage may cause urinary tract problems.

f. Enlargement of the prostate, common in older men, may cause obstruction and back pressure in the ureters and kidneys. If an enlarged prostate condition is untreated, it will cause permanent damage to the kidneys.

g. Age changes may predispose a person to incontinence, but age changes do not cause a person to be incontinent. Most elderly persons (60 percent of those residing in nursing homes and up to 90 percent of those living independently) have no incontinence.

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