If you're suffering from leaks or frequent urination, the first step towards relief is determining the cause. Urinary incontinence itself is not the disease, it's the symptom. So rather than just treating or managing the symptom(s), get to the root of the problem so you can address the real issue and work towards eliminating the symptoms altogether.
Causes of Incontinence
Leaks and frequent urination can be caused by everyday habits, underlying medical conditions, or physical problems. A thorough evaluation by your doctor will help you narrow it down and determine what's behind your incontinence.
Temporary urinary incontinence
Sometimes it's as simple looking at what you're putting into your body. Certain drinks, foods, and medications can act as diuretics — stimulating your bladder and increasing your volume of urine. Possible culprits are:
- Decaffeinated tea and coffee
- Carbonated drinks
- Artificial sweeteners
- Corn syrup
- Foods that are high in spice, sugar, or acid (particularly citrus fruits)
- Heart and blood pressure medications, sedatives, and muscle relaxants
- Large doses of vitamins B or C
Urinary incontinence also may be caused by an easily treatable medical condition, such as:
- Urinary tract infection. These infections can irritate your bladder causing you to have strong urges to urinate, and sometimes incontinence. Other signs and symptoms of urinary tract infection include a burning sensation when you urinate and foul-smelling urine.
- Hard, compacted stool in your rectum can causes nerves to be overactive and increase urinary frequency. The rectum is located near the bladder and therefore shares many of the same nerves.
Persistent urinary incontinence
Urinary incontinence can also be a persistent condition caused by underlying physical problems or changes, including:
- Hormonal changes and the increased weight of the uterus can lead to stress incontinence.
- Vaginal delivery can weaken muscles needed for bladder control and also damage bladder nerves and supportive tissue, leading to a dropped (prolapsed) pelvic floor. With prolapse, the bladder, uterus, rectum or small intestine can get pushed down from the usual position and protrude into the vagina. Such protrusions can be associated with incontinence.
- Changes with age. Aging of the bladder muscle can decrease the bladder's capacity to store urine.
- Menopause causes women to produce less estrogen, a hormone that helps keep the lining of the bladder and urethra healthy. Deterioration of these tissues can aggravate incontinence.
- Surgery that involves a woman's reproductive system, including removal of the uterus, may damage the supporting pelvic floor muscles and can lead to incontinence. In women, the bladder and uterus are supported by many of the same muscles and ligaments.
- Enlarged prostate. Especially in older men, incontinence often stems from enlargement of the prostate gland, a condition known as benign prostatic hyperplasia.
- Prostate cancer. In men, incontinence is a possible side effect of treatments for prostate cancer. Stress incontinence or urge incontinence can be also be associated with untreated prostate cancer.
- Tumors anywhere along your urinary tract can block the normal flow of urine, leading to overflow incontinence. Urinary stones — hard, stone-like masses that form in the bladder — can also sometimes cause urine leakage.
- Neurological disorders. Multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, stroke, a brain tumor, or a spinal injury can interfere with nerve signals involved in bladder control, causing urinary incontinence.