Causes of Urinary Incontinence

Leaking urine due to urinary incontinence is common – so common that many women (and men) think it’s simply a part of aging. While it can become more likely to experience incontinence as you age, it’s due to underlying medical causes. And it can be treated.

What is Urinary Incontinence?

Urinary incontinence is the involuntary loss of bladder control that causes urine to leak from the bladder. The kidneys, the ureters, the bladder, and the urethra make up the urinary system. The kidneys filter toxins from the body, and the waste becomes urine. The urine flows down the ureters and into the bladder, where it is stored until the bladder signals to the brain that it is time to urinate.

If the urinary system is working correctly, a sphincter muscle at the bottom of the bladder opens and allows the urine to exit the body through the urethra. Urinary incontinence can occur if any part of this system is disrupted.

Types of Urinary Incontinence

There are different types of urinary incontinence. Every kind of urinary incontinence has different causes and symptoms.

Stress incontinence

Stress incontinence occurs when urine leaks while performing activities that put pressure on the bladder. Everyday activities that can cause urine leakage include coughing, sneezing, running, jumping, laughing, or lifting heavy objects.

Conditions that may lead to stress incontinence include:

  • Pregnancy and childbirth
  • Menopause
  • Prostate enlargement or cancer
  • Weakened pelvic floor muscles
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity

Urge incontinence

People with urge incontinence experience an intense and urgent need to urinate. This sensation causes urine to leak from the bladder before you reach the toilet.

Urge incontinence can be caused by:

  • Weakened pelvic muscles
  • Nerve damage
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Obesity
  • Low estrogen levels, most commonly with menopause
  • Certain medications
  • Alcohol and caffeine

Overflow incontinence

Overflow incontinence results from chronic urinary retention (the inability to empty the bladder fully). This incontinence occurs when the bladder has reached its full capacity and causes frequent and slow leaking.

Overflow incontinence can be caused by conditions such as:

  • Multiple sclerosis (MS)
  • Stroke
  • Diabetes
  • Bladder stones
  • Narrowing of the urethra
  • Prostate enlargement or cancer
  • Bladder muscle weakness
  • Certain medications

Mixed Incontinence

Mixed incontinence is often a combination of stress and urge incontinence and manifests characteristics of both. This can make diagnosis and treatment a bit tricky, but with patience and commitment to working with your doctor, this too can be managed to restore quality of life.

Risk Factors for Urinary Incontinence

Incontinence can happen to anyone, but there are certain risk factors that make someone more likely to develop it.

Risk factors include:

  • Female gender
  • Men with prostate disease
  • Age
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Family history

How is Urinary Incontinence Treated?

Your treatment will depend on the type of urinary incontinence you are experiencing and the severity of your symptoms. If an underlying health condition causes your incontinence, your doctor will recommend treatments for that condition.

Conservative treatments such as lifestyle changes, pelvic floor exercises, physical therapy, and bladder training are usually tried first. If conservative measures are unsuccessful, your doctor may recommend medications, an implantable device, or surgery.

When to See a Doctor?

If leaking urine is causing you to miss out on things you enjoy or avoid certain activities, it’s important to talk to your doctor. Urinary incontinence, even if you are older, is not normal and you don’t need to live with it.
Don’t continue to suffer from the symptoms of urinary incontinence – schedule an appointment today!