Use of certain substances such as caffeine or alcohol
Use of certain medications, such as cholinergic agents or alpha-agonists
Any loss of bladder control can be considered incontinence.
When Should I Call My Doctor?
Call your doctor if you have a loss of urine control. Your doctor can help you determine the underlying cause.
The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. They will ask how often you empty your bladder and patterns of urine leakage. A physical exam will be done to look for any physical causes. A urologist may be recommended.
Treatments are based on the cause of the urinary incontinence. Temporary incontinence may be relieved by managing the conditions associated with the incontinence.
Weight loss may help lower episodes of stress or urge incontinence in those who are overweight or obese.
Behavior changes and improving pelvic floor muscle strength can help. Behavior changes include:
Decreasing caffeine—caffeine has been linked to worsening of urinary incontinence
Planning frequent bathroom trips throughout the day to prevent accidents
Methods to increase strength in the pelvic floor muscles include:
—focuses on muscles that hold the bladder in place and those that control urine flow
Painless electrical stimulation—may strengthen the muscles more quickly; helpful for stress incontinence
Pelvic floor exercises using cone-shaped weights that are placed in the vagina
Biofeedback—a device signals how strong you are at contracting your muscles during exercise
Surgical procedures may be done if other treatments are not helping. Surgical options include:
Placement of strips of material or sutures to relieve pressure on the urethra. There are several different types of surgery. A
is a common option. It
uses mesh to help support the urethra.
Collagen injection into the wall of the urethra. This substance bulks up the wall of the urethra to help stop leaks.
First steps include behavior changes and improving strength of pelvic floor muscles. Behavior changes include:
Drinking less fluid throughout the day
Avoiding caffeine and alcohol
Avoiding drinking at bedtime
Keeping a log of your urination schedule and accidents.
Kegel exercises can help strengthen pelvic floor muscles and relieve some symptoms.
Medications may be recommended. Anticholinergics are the most common medication. They can relax the muscles of the bladder. Other medications may be used in combination to help manage symptoms, such as
Nerve stimulation may help if other treatment do not give relief. A device will send pulses to the nerves that control the bladder. The pulse can improve bladder control.
Treatment is to allow the bladder to completely empty. If a blockage is causing the problems, surgery may be needed to open the urine pathways.
A catheter may be needed It will allow urine to fully drain from the bladder. Catheters can be used at home.
Other Management Steps
Absorbent pads or diapers can be used to manage urinary leakage. Plugs and patches can also be used to help hold urine in place.
A supportive device called a pessary may also be used.
Pessaries are devices that raise the uterus or the prolapsed bladder. It can decrease pressure on the bladder.
Incontinence is a symptom of many other conditions. There are several ways to prevent incontinence:
If advised by your doctor, do exercises to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles, such as Kegel exercises. This is especially important if you are pregnant.
Reduce your intake of substances that lead to incontinence such as caffeine, alcohol, and certain drugs.
Bladder control problems in women (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-women. Accessed December 19, 2020.
Overactive bladder (OAB). Urology Care Foundation website. Available at: http://www.urologyhealth.org/urologic-conditions/overactive-bladder-(oab)?article=112. Accessed December 19, 2020.
Sobhgol SS, Charandabee SM. Related factors of urge, stress, mixed urinary incontinence, and overactive bladder in reproductive age women in Tabriz, Iran: a cross-sectional study. Int Urogynecol J Pelvic Floor Dys Function. 2008;19(3):367-373.
Urinary incontinence. Urology Care Foundation website. Available at: http://www.urologyhealth.org/urologic-conditions/urinary-incontinence. Accessed December 19, 2020.
Urinary incontinence. Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians. Available at: https://familydoctor.org/condition/urinary-incontinence. Accessed December 19, 2020.
Urinary incontinence in women. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T900573/Urinary-incontinence-in-women. Accessed December 19, 2020.
Wein AJ, Rackley RR. Overactive bladder: a better understanding of pathophysiology, diagnosis, and management. J Urol. 2006;175(3 pt 2):S5-S10.
Last reviewed January 2021 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
Adrienne Carmack, MD
Last Updated: 04/25/2021
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