The risk of urinary incontinence appears to be one of the things mothers can pass on to their daughters, according to new findings released Friday.
Norwegian researchers found that women whose mothers had urinary incontinence were 30 percent more likely to develop the condition as well. Having an incontinent older sister upped the risk by 60 percent.
This is the first study to show that there may be genetic risk factors associated with urinary incontinence, study author Dr. Yngvild S. Hannestad told Reuters Health.
Hannestad added that it is still too early to predict how these findings might help treat women with the condition. However, the researcher noted that doctors may one day tell women with a family history of incontinence to take extra measures to prevent incontinence.
For instance, women often develop incontinence after pregnancy, and those with a family history may benefit from practicing pelvic floor exercises that can prevent the condition after childbirth, said Hannestad, based at the University of Bergen.
There are two main types of urinary incontinence: urge incontinence, in which people lose urinary control due to an overactive bladder, and stress incontinence, in which they leak urine when they laugh, cough, sneeze, strain or lift due to weakness in the muscles that hold back urine.
Other risk factors for incontinence include older age and obesity.
To investigate whether this difficult condition may be passed on in families, Hannestad and colleagues reviewed information collected from 6,021 mothers, 7,629 daughters, 332 granddaughters, and 2,104 older sisters of 2,426 sisters.
As they reporting in the British Medical Journal, the researchers found that there was indeed a familial risk. In terms of the different types, maternal incontinence increased the risk of stress incontinence by 50 percent, and the risk of urge incontinence by 80 percent.
And if mothers had particularly severe forms of incontinence, daughters were 90 percent more likely to develop severe symptoms, as well.
Women had a higher risk of incontinence if the condition plagued both their mothers and grandmothers, but not if only their grandmothers were incontinent.
SOURCE: British Medical Journal, October 16, 2004.
Revision date: June 14, 2011
Last revised: by Jorge P. Ribeiro, MD