Urinary incontinence – the loss of bladder control – is a common and often embarrassing problem. The severity ranges from the occasional urine leak when coughing or sneezing to the urge to urinate so suddenly and strongly that you don’t go to the bathroom in time.

Although it is more common with age, urinary incontinence is not an inevitable consequence of aging. If urinary incontinence interferes with your daily activities, don’t hesitate to see your doctor. For most people, simple lifestyle and diet changes, or medical treatment can manage symptoms of urinary incontinence.

Many people have occasional and minor leakage of urine. Others may lose small to moderate amounts of urine more often.

Types of urinary incontinence include:

Stress incontinence. Urine comes out when you put pressure on your bladder while coughing, sneezing, laughing, exercising, or lifting something heavy.
Urge incontinence. You have a sudden and intense need to urinate, followed by an involuntary loss of urine. You may need to urinate frequently, including overnight. Urge incontinence can be caused by a minor condition such as an infection or a more serious condition such as a neurological disorder or diabetes.
Overflow incontinence. You have frequent or constant drops of urine due to an incompletely emptied bladder.
Functional incontinence. A physical or mental disability prevents you from going to the bathroom on time. For example, if you have severe arthritis, you may not be able to unbutton your pants quickly enough.

The reasons
Anatomy of the female urinary system
Female Urinary System Open popup dialog Male Urinary System Anatomy
Open Male Urinary System Pop-up Dialog
Urinary incontinence can be caused by everyday habits, underlying medical conditions, or physical problems. A thorough evaluation by your doctor can help determine what’s behind your incontinence.

Risk factors
Factors that increase your risk of urinary incontinence include:

Genre. Women are more likely to suffer from stress incontinence. Pregnancy, childbirth, menopause, and normal female anatomy explain this difference. However, men with prostate problems are at increased risk of urge and overflow incontinence.
Age. As you get older, the muscles in your bladder and urethra lose some strength. Changes with age decrease the capacity of your bladder and increase the likelihood of an accidental leakage of urine.
To be overweight. Extra weight increases pressure on your bladder and surrounding muscles, weakens them, and allows urine to escape when you cough or sneeze.
Smoke. Smoking can increase the risk of urinary incontinence.
Family history. If a close family member has urinary incontinence, especially urge incontinence, the risk of developing the disease is higher.

Urinary incontinence is not always avoidable. To reduce your risk:

Maintain a healthy weight
Practice pelvic floor exercises
Avoid bladder irritants like caffeine, alcohol, and acidic foods
Eat more fiber, which can prevent constipation, a cause of urinary incontinence
Do not smoke or get help quitting if you smoke

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