Urinary incontinence involves the accidental leakage of urine
There are different types of incontinence, including:
- Stress incontinence which is leakage that happens when you cough, sneeze, or laugh. Leaks may also occur during exercise, including running or walking.
- Urge incontinence which involves a sudden, uncontrollable urge to urinate that causes an involuntary loss of urine. This may happen on your way to the bathroom, when you’re near a bathroom or you may also need to urinate more frequently, including throughout the night.
It is also possible to have mixed incontinence, which involves symptoms of both stress and urge incontinence.
What causes urinary incontinence?
Urinary incontinence is a symptom rather than a disease in and of itself. Several factors, including lifestyle habits and underlying medical conditions, may cause incontinence.
Short-term causes of incontinence include:
- Medicines that act as diuretics
- Urinary tract infections
- Caffeinated drinks and other bladder irritants
Incontinence that’s caused by short-term factors is likely to resolve by treating or eliminating the underlying cause.
Long-term causes may involve problems with the muscles and nerves that control the flow of urine
Certain life events can weaken the pelvic muscles or cause nerve damage, including:
- Chronic constipation
- Repetitive heavy lifting
- Chronic cough
Diagnosis starts with a review of your symptoms and medical history and may include a physical and pelvic exam
It’s helpful to tell your provider exactly what conditions trigger your urine leakage so they can recommend the best treatment.
A personalized treatment plan is based on your particular type of incontinence. This may involve lifestyle changes, such as drinking less caffeine or performing pelvic-strengthening exercises, such as Kegels, at home. In some cases, additional management may include medication or pelvic floor physical therapy. Severe cases of urinary incontinence may require surgery.