Incontinence: Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment

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Urinary incontinence occurs when a person no longer has control of their bladder. It can result in urine leaking from the urethra or the full release of the bladder. It can be an embarrassing problem that prevents people from living normal lives, being social, or enjoying time away from their homes. It can affect people of all ages but is more common in the elderly. In many cases, the problem can be treated.

Urinary Incontinence Causes

The causes of incontinence can vary. Finding the cause is important because it can help doctors determine and understand the symptoms and produce a treatment option that works best for the patient. In some cases, there are many causes. In others, it can be hard to find the cause. Some common causes include:

  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine
  • Carbonated drinks and sparkling water
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Foods that are high in spice, sugar, or acid
  • Heart and blood pressure medications
  • Sedatives
  • Muscle relaxants
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Pregnancy
  • Childbirth
  • Menopause
  • Hysterectomy
  • Enlarged prostate
  • Prostate cancer
  • Tumor
  • Urinary tract blockage
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Spinal cord injury

Urinary Incontinence Symptoms

The symptoms of incontinence can vary from person to person. Some people experience more than one type of incontinence, and others only have one thing that triggers the problem. In many cases, the cause of the incontinence can have an effect on the symptoms. Some of the most common symptoms include:

  • Urination with stress
  • Sudden or intense urge to urinate
  • Constant dribbling or leaking of urine from the bladder
  • Urination when sneezing or coughing
  • Urination when nervous
  • Urination when laughing or crying
  • Urination with sudden movement
  • Inability to make it to the bathroom
  • Excessive urination

Urinary Incontinence Diagnosis

Urinary incontinence can be diagnosed based on the patient’s symptoms, but doctors need to determine the cause of the problem before they can produce a treatment. Doctors use a variety of tests to come up with a diagnosis. Some of these tests include:

  • Urinalysis: Urine samples are tested for signs of infection, parasites, or other abnormalities.
  • Bladder Diary: Doctors sometimes ask patients to keep track of each time they urinate or have incontinence.
  • Post-Void Residual Measurement: Doctors will use a catheter or ultrasound to see how much urine is left in the bladder after the patient has urinated.

Urinary Incontinence Treatment

Treatment for incontinence depends on the underlying cause, the severity of the problem, and the patient’s overall health and preferences. Some of the most common incontinence treatments include:

  • Bladder training
  • Fluid management
  • Pelvic floor muscle exercises
  • Electrical stimulation
  • Medications
  • Urethral inserts
  • Botox
  • Nerve stimulators
  • Pelvic slings
  • Bladder neck suspension
  • Prolapse correction
  • Artificial urinary sphincter
  • Absorbent pads
  • Catheters

Urinary Incontinence Prognosis

The prognosis for incontinence can vary. Some people are able to have the underlying cause of the problem corrected, and others have to live with the issues for the rest of their lives. In most cases, treatments can help reduce the symptoms and reduce accidents and leakage. Once a successful treatment is found, patients can go on to live normal lives.


American Urological Association