Urinary Incontinence – The Causes, Types and Treatment

Urinary Incontinence

What Is Urinary Incontinence?

Do you know how embarrassing it can be to have urinary incontinence? If you have information and understand what causes incontinence, this can improve your chances of getting it under control.

Urinary incontinence occurs when the muscles in the bladder that control the flow of urine contract or relax involuntarily.  This results in either leaking or uncontrolled urination.  The condition affects nearly 1 in 10 people over the age of 65.

urinary incontinence


Urinary incontinence can range from mild, occasional leaking to chronic uncontrolled urination.  Incontinence itself is not a disease, but it can be a symptom of an underlying medical condition.

What are the Causes of Urinary Incontinence

Urinary Incontinence may be a temporary problem caused by a vaginal or urinary tract infection, chronic condition, constipation or certain medications.

The most common causes of chronic incontinence are:

Nerve damage that affects bladder control
A disability or limitation that makes it difficult to get to the toilet quickly
Side effects from a prior surgery
Stress Incontinence
For men, an enlarged prostate, or benign prostatic hyperplasia
Overactive bladder muscles
Weakened pelvic floor muscles
Interstitial cystitis (chronic bladder inflammation) or other bladder conditions
While there are many different types of urinary incontinence, the most common include stress incontinence and overactive bladder (also called urge incontinence).

Stress Incontinence

Stress incontinence occurs when there is unexpected leakage of urine caused by pressure or sudden muscle contractions on the bladder.

This often occurs during exercise, heavy lifting, coughing, sneezing, or laughing.

Stress incontinence is the most common bladder control problem in young and middle-aged women.

In younger women, the condition may be due to an inherent weakness of the pelvic floor muscles or an effect from the stress of childbirth.

In middle-aged women, stress incontinence may begin to be a problem at menopause.

Urge Incontinence

Sometimes called overactive bladder, or OAB, urge incontinence occurs when a person feels the urge to urinate but is unable to hold back the urine long enough to get to a bathroom.

Urge incontinence sometimes occurs in people who’ve had a stroke or have chronic diseases such as diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, or multiple sclerosis.

In some cases, urge incontinence may be an early sign of bladder cancer.

Other Types of Incontinence

Overflow incontinence: This occurs when a person is unable to empty their bladder completely and it overflows as new urine is produced.

Overflow incontinence sometimes occurs in men who have an enlarged prostate. It’s also found in people with diabetes or spinal cord injuries.

Functional incontinence: This type of incontinence has less to do with a bladder disorder and more to do with the logistics of getting to a bathroom in time.

It’s usually found in elderly or disabled people who have normal or near-normal bladder control but cannot get to the toilet in time because of mobility limitations or confusion.

Gross total incontinence: This refers to the constant leaking of urine from a bladder that simply has no functioning storage capacity.

This condition may result from an anatomical defect, a spinal cord injury, an abnormal opening in the bladder (fistula), or as an aftereffect of urinary tract surgery.

Risk Factors for Urinary Incontinence

The following are the most common risk factors for incontinence and they include:

Advancing age

As we get older, our bladder and urinary sphincter muscles often weaken, which may result in frequent and unexpected urges to urinate.

Being female

Women experience stress incontinence twice as often as men. Men, on the other hand, are at greater risk for urge and overflow incontinence.

Even though incontinence is more common in older people, it is not considered a normal part of aging.

Excess body fat

urinary incontinence


Extra body fat increases the pressure on the bladder and can lead to urine leakage during exercise or when coughing or sneezing. Other chronic diseases: Vascular disease, kidney disease, diabetes, prostate cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and other conditions may increase the risk of urinary incontinence.

High-impact sports

While playing sports doesn’t cause incontinence, running, jumping, and other activities that create sudden pressure on the bladder can lead to occasional episodes of incontinence during sports activities.


A chronic smoker’s cough can trigger or aggravate stress incontinence by putting pressure on the urinary sphincter.

How Is Incontinence Diagnosed?

Urinary incontinence is easy to recognize. The primary symptom most people experience is an involuntary release of urine.

However, determining the type and cause of incontinence can be more difficult and require a variety of exams and tests.

Blood and stress tests can be conducted by a physician to look for causes of urinary incontinence.  Blood tests are used to look for chemicals and substances that may relate to conditions causing the incontinence.  As for stress tests, this is whereby a patient is asked to cough or vigorously tense her midsection as though exerting herself while the physician checks for loss of urine.

Home Remedies for Urinary Incontinence

The treatment of urinary incontinence varies depending on the cause of the bladder control problem.

Pelvic muscle exercises

This type of exercise routine helps strengthen weak pelvic muscles and improve bladder control.

Many people find the following products useful for decreasing incontinence symptoms:

Adult diapers and undergarments

Absorbent, non-bulky pads and underwear that’s worn discreetly under clothing are available in different sizes for both men and women.

For those with mild or moderate leakage, panty liners are sometimes all that’s required.

Patches and plugs

Many women are able to manage light leakage from stress incontinence by using products that block the flow of urine, such as a small, disposable adhesive patch that fits over the urethral opening, a tampon-like urethral plug, or a vaginal insert called a pessary.


These can be used for unmanageable incontinence, a physician can place a catheter in the urethra to continually drain the bladder.  Due to a higher risk of developing infections and kidney stones, catheters are usually used as a last resort and used only for severely ill patients.

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Learn More About Urinary Incontinence Resources Here.



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