What causes urinary incontinence?

Diana Meeks
Diana Meeks on behalf of Sigma Nursing
Family Practitioner

Urinary incontinence can be caused by a variety of factors, from lifestyle habits to serious medical issues. Alcohol, caffeine, and medications can all cause temporary incontinence. In other cases, being either dehydrated (which can cause bladder irritation) or overhydrated (which leads to too much urine) can also cause urinary incontinence. Urinary tract infections, constipation, pregnancy, a hysterectomy, aging, prostate or bladder issues, and neurological disorders such as multiple sclerosis or Parkinson's disease, are just some of the other causes of urinary incontinence.

There are two kinds of urinary incontinence, each with a different cause, says obstetrician and gynecologist Dr. Lauren Streicher. Learn what they are by watching this video.

Lisa Rogo-Gupta
OBGYN (Obstetrics & Gynecology)

Urinary incontinence has many causes. Urinary incontinence that comes on suddenly may be caused by an infection or irritant in the bladder. Urinary incontinence that happens when you laugh, sneeze, or cough (also called "stress incontinence") is typically caused by vaginal delivery. Urinary incontinence that happens because you cannot make it to the bathroom in time (also called "urge incontinence') can happen because you have lost control over your bladder from menopause, because your bladder is too full, or from other bladder irritants. 

If urinary incontinence becomes a problem, the first step is to write down when it happens. If it only happens during sleep, the treatment could be as simple as limiting your nighttime liquid intake!

Urinary incontinence can be caused by many different medical problems, including side effects of medications, constipation, obesity, urinary-tract infections, circulatory disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, stroke and gait problems. Men often experience symptoms from an enlarged prostate gland or as a complication of prostate surgery. Women often have symptoms from weakened or stretched pelvic muscles after childbirth or thinning and drying of the vaginal walls or urethra after menopause.

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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.