Is Your Urinary Incontinence partly due to Genetic Factors? Thanks Mom
Do you have older relatives with incontinence? A large study shows that your genetic makeup may be partly to blame. Urinary incontinence is very common, especially among women. 1 in 3 women are affected by the following at some point in life:
- Overactive bladder
- Other lower urinary tract symptoms, which can be caused by factors such as old age, excess weight, pregnancy, and childbirth, as well as stroke and other neurological disorders.
“There is a combination of factors that cause incontinence,” says gynecologist Anna Lena Wennberg, one of the researchers behind the study. “We already knew that there are hereditary factors, but now we’ve been able to show for the first time how important the genetic component is for various types of urinary tract disorder.”
Swedish Twin Study
A study conducted by the Swedish Twin Registry at Karolinska Institute in Stockholm looked at over 25,000 twins of Swedish descent. The ages ranged from 20 to 46. They focused on urinary incontinence, overactive bladder, and other lower urinary tract symptoms. The study analyzed, using a statistical method, how much of the differences between these pairs were due to genetic variation.
They compared the prevalence of the symptoms in identical twins, who share half of their genetic material, and non-identical twins (AKA Fraternal twins), who share half of their genetic material. The researchers were able to draw conclusions about the relative significance of genetic and environmental factors.
“With urinary incontinence, we saw that just over half of the variation (51%) can be explained by genetic factors,” says Wennberg. “This doesn’t mean that half of all people with urinary incontinence inherit it from their parents. There are approximately 50% of people’s susceptibility to urinary incontinence can be explained by their genes.”
Wennberg does not believe that there is a single incontinence gene, rather a number of different genes play a role. These genes combine with various environmental factors or cause disorders which, in turn, increase the risk of urinary incontinence.
Night Time Urges to Urinate
Genes also turned out to be significant for nocturia — the need to get up in the night to urinate. In this case, around a third (34%) of the variation has a genetic explanation.
“Urinary incontinence is a multifactorial condition, and while we now know that much of the variation between people is down to their genes, treatment will continue to focus on environmental factors which are easier to influence.” If you have older relatives with incontinence, you are more predisposed to become incontinent. The good news is there are simple treatments now, unlike in your mom’s time thirty or even ten years ago! Take advantage and get treated.
The study was published in the online version of the journal European Urology. Anna-Lena Wennberg, Daniel Altman, et al. Genetic Influences Are Important for Most But Not All Lower Urinary Tract Symptoms: A Population-Based Survey in a Cohort of Adult Swedish Twins. European Urology, 2011; DOI: 10.1016/j.eururo.2011.03.007