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Incontinence/strong odor in elderly woman

  My elderly mom has urinary incontinence for which she takes medications - Dyptropan and ?.  She falls frequently and has organic brain disease/spinocerebellar ataxia.  A couple of months ago, she fell and since that time, she has been more frequent in her incontinence.  The medication only helps moderately.  The main concern at this time is the odor of her urine.  It is not an ammonia smell.  She does occasionally wet her clothing, but not regularly; and of course, she immediately bathes and changes clothes after doing so.   The odor is so bad that it will permeate, not only the restroom, but any rooms through which you carry her wet clothes.  It also lingers in that room and also extends over from the washroom even after the clothes have been put in the washer and wet.  She has a urologist, and we have discussed this with him.  He offerred no explanation - only added an extra  medication.  Have you heard of anything like this before?  We are concerned that there may be an illness contributing to the problem, but she is under the regular care of a doc.
Dear Judy,
Urinary incontinence has many causes one of which could be organic brain disease, such as you mentioned that your mother suffers from.  However, malodorous urine is usually unrelated to incontinence, except that clothing soaked with urine can start smelling very bad if not washed promptly.  It is possible that your mother may have a urinary tract infection (UTI) which could be causing the malodorous urine.  The only way to diagnose a UTI is to obtain a urine culture, and treat the UTI if it is positive.
Another explanation for malodorous urine may be dehydration.  Many incontinent patients avoid drinking fluids for fear of worsening incontinence, and may become dehydrated.  This in turn results in formation of concentrated urine which can smell pretty strong.  Malodorous urine can also result from certain foods or medications that she may be taking.  I can not think of any other specific causes for malodorous urine.  I wish you and your mother the best.
This information is provided for general medical education purposes only.  Please consult your physician for diagnostic and treatment options pertaining to your specific medical condition. More individualized care is available at the Henry Ford Hospital and its satellites (1 800 653 6568).
*Keyword: malodorous urine, incontinence

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