Urinary incontinence


Urinary incontinence is a condition in which a person has an uncontrollable leakage of urine. It is more common among older adults, but can affect people of all ages. Causes can include weak pelvic floor muscles, an enlarged prostate, childbirth, pelvic trauma, neurological conditions, diabetes, and certain medications. Treatment options include lifestyle changes, such as bladder training and Kegel exercises, along with medications, surgery, and other medical interventions. In most cases, urinary incontinence can be managed.


The symptoms of urinary incontinence vary depending on the type of incontinence and the underlying cause. Common symptoms may include:

  • Urge incontinence (overactive bladder): A strong, sudden urge to urinate that is difficult to control, and may lead to the loss of small amounts of urine.
  • Stress incontinence (also known as involuntary urine leakage): Leakage or dribbling of urine that occurs during activities such as coughing, sneezing, laughing, running, or lifting.
  • Overflow incontinence: A frequent or constant dribbling of urine due to a bladder that does not empty completely.
  • Functional incontinence: A condition in which an individual is physically or mentally unable to reach a toilet in time.
  • Mixed incontinence: A combination of types of incontinence.

Other common symptoms may include: frequent urination, waking up at night to use the bathroom, urinary tract infections, and pelvic pain.


Urinary incontinence is a condition where a person involuntarily leaks urine. Common causes of urinary incontinence include weakened pelvic floor muscles, nerve damage, pregnancy and childbirth, excessive alcohol consumption, and certain medications. Other causes of urinary incontinence include urinary tract infections, an enlarged prostate, neurological disorders like stroke or multiple sclerosis, and constipation. Additionally, age and retirement can play a role in urinary incontinence as well. Obtaining a proper diagnosis is important when trying to treat urinary incontinence, as the cause must be identified in order to provide the best treatment.

Risk factors

The risk factors for urinary incontinence include age, gender, lifestyle, medical history, medications, and chronic conditions.

Age: As we get older, the muscles in our pelvic floor become weaker, leading to an increased risk of urinary incontinence.

Gender: Women are more likely than men to experience urinary incontinence due to the differences in anatomy, hormones, childbirth and menopause.

Lifestyle: Smoking, being overweight, and lack of physical activity can increase the risk of urinary incontinence.

Medications: Certain medications, such as diuretics and alpha-blockers, can increase the risk of urinary incontinence.

Chronic conditions: People with chronic conditions such as diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and stroke can be more likely to experience urinary incontinence.


Urinary incontinence is typically diagnosed by a physical exam and medical history. The doctor will ask questions about symptoms and medical history, as well as perform a physical exam. They may also order tests such as urinalysis, bladder capacity tests, cystoscopy, urodynamic testing, and imaging tests to assess bladder function and detect underlying conditions. Additionally, a patient may be asked to keep a voiding diary to record their urinary habits and help identify any potential issues.


Types of Urinary Incontinence include:

  1. Stress Incontinence: This type of incontinence occurs when physical activity or an increase in abdominal pressure causes urine leakage. It is most common in women.
  2. Overflow Incontinence: Also known as chronic urinary retention, this type of incontinence occurs when the bladder is unable to empty completely, causing leakage. It is more common in men.
  3. Urge Incontinence: This type of incontinence is caused by an overactive bladder and an urgent need to urinate. It can be caused by a range of things, such as an infection, a neurological condition, or a tumor.
  4. Functional Incontinence: This type of incontinence happens when physical, mental, or neurological issues make it difficult for a person to get to the toilet in time.
  5. Mixed Incontinence: This type of incontinence is a combination of two or more types of urinary incontinence. It is the most common type.


The treatment options for urinary incontinence vary depending on the cause and the severity of the condition. In general, the most common treatments include the following:

  1. Exercise: Exercise can help strengthen the bladder and pelvic floor muscles, which can help improve or even prevent incontinence. Kegel exercises are typically recommended—where the pelvic floor muscles are contracted and held for 10 seconds, and then relaxed.
  2. Medications: Depending on the type and severity of the incontinence, a doctor may recommend medications to help reduce urgency and leakage.
  3. Surgery: In more severe cases, surgery may be recommended to repair certain tissues or muscles in the bladder or pelvic area. This can be especially helpful for women who have incontinence due to childbirth trauma.
  4. Bladder training: Bladder training involves regularly scheduling bathroom breaks and gradually increasing the amount of time between trips to the bathroom. This helps to retrain the bladder and increase its capacity.
  5. Pelvic floor muscle therapy: A physical therapist can be useful in helping to target and strengthen the muscles in the pelvic floor. Through massage and other exercises, the pelvic floor can be strengthened to help improve bladder control.


There are several steps that may be taken to reduce the risk of urinary incontinence:

  1. Lead a healthy lifestyle by exercising regularly, eating a balanced diet, and avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol intake.
  2. Perform pelvic floor exercises, such as Kegel exercises, regularly to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles, which help control and support your bladder.
  3. Empty your bladder regularly and completely to reduce the risk of infection.
  4. Manage constipation by eating high-fiber foods and drinking plenty of fluids.
  5. Consult a physician to discuss medications that may be contributing to your incontinence.
  6. Wear absorbent incontinence products during the day and night if needed to manage your incontinence.

Gender differences?

Yes, there are gender-specific differences in the presentation and management of urinary incontinence. Men are more likely to experience urge incontinence due to diseases such as benign prostatic hyperplasia or prostate cancer, while women are more likely to experience stress incontinence due to pregnancy, childbirth or menopause. Men are also more likely to experience a sudden urge to urinate, while women often experience a gradual loss of urine leakage. Treatment for urinary incontinence can also differ between genders. For men, surgery, lifestyle modifications and medications may be recommended to treat their symptoms. For women, medications, Pelvic Floor Muscle Training (PFMT), and biofeedback are more likely to be recommended. Additionally, some treatments, such as medications, may have different dosages, effectiveness and side effects between genders.


Nutrition plays an important role in the management of urinary incontinence. Research has indicated that a high intake of foods that are high in fiber content, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, as well as foods that are low in sodium, such as low-fat dairy products, can help to reduce symptoms of urinary incontinence. Additionally, reducing the intake of caffeine and alcohol can also be beneficial in managing urinary incontinence, as they can act as irritants to the bladder. Furthermore, staying hydrated and drinking plenty of fluids (particularly water) can also help to reduce urine leakage. Eating a balanced diet and maintaining a healthy weight can also help reduce symptoms, as being overweight can put additional pressure on the bladder.

Physical Activity

Physical activity has been shown to reduce the likelihood of urinary incontinence. Regular exercise strengthens the pelvic floor muscles and abdominal muscles which aid in bladder control. Regular exercise also helps reduce the body’s stress, which can help keep the bladder from over-filling. Additionally, physical activity helps to maintain a healthy weight which puts less pressure on the bladder and can help minimize incontinence episodes.

Further Reading

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK559095/
  2. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/urinary-incontinence-in-women-beyond-the-basics
  3. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/urinary-incontinence/symptoms-causes/syc-20352808
  4. https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/452289-overview
  5. https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/urinary-incontinence
  6. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/17596-urinary-incontinence

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *