What causes transient incontinence?

Jill Rabin
OBGYN (Obstetrics & Gynecology)

Transient (temporary, reversible, or acute) incontinence is usually caused by an illness or a specific medical condition that is more or less short-lived and is, therefore, quickly remedied by appropriate treatment of the condition and disappearance of symptoms. It may develop as a result of:

• A stroke, when the brain, the spinal cord, the bladder, and the pelvic floor are not in good working order.

• Surgery or after any illness that limits mobility, makes physical activity a challenge, or interferes with the mental awareness of the patient.

• Bowel impaction or constipation, in which a large mass of hard stool lodges in the intestine or rectum. This may give a signal to the bladder that it’s okay not to empty. The stool may also block or irritate the bladder by putting pressure on it, causing either incontinence or urine retention.

• Depression. Doctors are investigating whether the same pathways that cause incontinence may also cause depression or if incontinence, itself, is just plain depressing.

• Irritation or inflammation of the bladder (cystitis), the urethra (urethritis), or the vagina (vaginitis).

• The use of certain medications: diuretics (water pills that increase the output of urine and cause the bladder to fill more quickly); sleeping pills, muscle relaxants, sedatives, and alcohol that relax muscles to the point where the user becomes unaware of the need to urinate; decongestants, antihistamines, and nasal sprays that tighten the pelvic floor muscles causing difficulty in voiding; antidepressants and narcotics that relax the bladder so that it doesn’t contract properly.

• A lack of estrogen, which may cause atrophic vaginitis/cystitis.

• A sluggish thyroid or diabetes.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.