Causes of Urinary Incontinence
by Michael Jubinville, MPH
There are many types of urinary incontinence. It can be a condition that's temporary or one that lasts longer. The causes vary based on the type. These are:
The most common causes include:
Talk to your doctor about the medicines you take. If any of them are causing problems, your doctor may change them.
Longer Lasting Incontinence
Longer lasting (sometimes permanent) types of incontinence may be put into these groups. Some people may have more than one type or cause. In some cases, the cause may not be clear.
Stress incontinence happens when certain activities add more pressure on the bladder. Leaking can be triggered by laughing, sneezing, lifting heavy objects, or exercise. This is the most common type of incontinence. It may be caused by problems with:
Urge incontinence is loss of bladder control after a strong urge to pass urine. Urine can't be held long enough to make it to a bathroom. This is also known as an overactive bladder. It may be caused by:
This type happens when the bladder is full. The pressure caused by an overfull bladder is higher than the strength needed to hold urine in. It may be caused by:
When nerve controls to your bladder are absent, the bladder will empty when it reaches a certain volume. This is called a neurogenic bladder. If you have this, you will learn how to drain urine at set times or with a catheter placed into the bladder.
Your bladder control may be perfectly normal. But, any health problem that slows you down or confines you may result in loss of urine. This is called functional incontinence. It often happens with the other types. Some causes include:
Other Causes of Incontinence
Sometimes, a channel opens between the bladder and the outside world. This isn’t normal and isn’t supposed to be there. It can be present from birth, or because of an injury or surgery. A fistula causes continuous, uncontrolled urine dribbling. It can be fixed with surgery.
Definition & facts for bladder control problems (urinary incontinence). National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/urologic-diseases/bladder-control-problems/definition-facts. Updated June 2018. Accessed January 16, 2019.
Urinary incontinence. Urology Care Foundation website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed January 16, 2019.
Urinary incontinence in adults. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/genitourinary-disorders/voiding-disorders/urinary-incontinence-in-adults. Updated July 2018. Accessed January 16, 2019.
Urinary incontinence in men. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.... Accessed December 4, 2018. Accessed January 16, 2019.
Urinary incontinence in women. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.... Accessed November 14, 2018. Accessed January 16, 2019.
Last reviewed December 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Adrienne Carmack, MD
Last Updated: 1/16/2019
EBSCO Information Services is fully accredited by URAC. URAC is an independent, nonprofit health care accrediting organization dedicated to promoting health care quality through accreditation, certification and commendation.
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
To send comments or feedback to our Editorial Team regarding the content please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our Health Library Support team will respond to your email request within 2 business days.