Causes Of Urinary Incontinence

Urinary incontinence is a common problem, especially in women because they have a shorter urethra. Incontinence can range from a few small drops to a complete loss of bladder control. There are various reasons for incontinence.


Stress incontinence is the more common cause of urine leakage. This occurs when a person sneezes, coughs, laughs, or lifts heavy weights. In most situations, there is not complete loss of bladder control, but there can be a few drops of urine or a small gush of urine. Stress incontinence is more likely to occur in people who are overweight or women who had children. There is often laxity in the pelvic muscles that support the bladder and other abdominopelvic organs. Special exercises, such as Kegels, can be used to reduce or stop stress incontinence. Kegel exercises are often talked about for women, but they can be done by men, too. Exercises can be done at any time, but it is important to also do them while urinating. The goal is to strengthen the pelvic muscles to the point that you can stop the urine stream. Stronger pelvic floor muscles also minimize the risk of pelvic organ prolapse.

Neurological Conditions

Neurological and neuromuscular conditions, such as stroke, multiple sclerosis, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, can contribute to urinary incontinence. Acute issues, such as a stroke or seizure, may cause an abrupt loss of bladder control and if the damage is chronic, it may lead to ongoing incontinence. For some people with progressive neurological conditions, loss of bladder control might be the first symptom of the disorder. Neurological problems can also be caused by tumors pressing on the spinal cord. Any neurological condition can lead to numbness and dysfunction of the nerves involved in signaling the bladder. When these nerves are impaired, they can cause incontinence because the person may not feel normal urges to urinate or the muscles involved in holding urine in the bladder may not work correctly.

Bladder Dysfunction And Poor Signals

A dysfunctional bladder and poor signals can also be the culprit for incontinence. For some people, their bladder does not empty completely, which can increase the likelihood of the bladder over-filling and lead to leaks. Some people also have dysfunctional signaling to the bladder, such as sudden urges, which may prevent them from making it to the bathroom in time or urges when the bladder is not full. If a person frequently has urges with an empty bladder, they may start delaying going to the bathroom only to end up having accidents because they cannot determine whether they need to go or not.

Organ Enlargement And Abdominal Masses

Either benign or malignant changes in the abdominopelvic organs or masses within this region can press on the bladder. This can lead to leaks or complete loss of urine. One common type of mass that may cause this problem in men is an enlargement in the prostate. Prostate enlargement can be benign, such as in the case of benign prostatic hyperplasia or because of cancerous tumors in the prostate. For women, masses in the uterus, such as fibroids, or enlargement of the ovaries due to cancer or abnormally large cysts are another cause. Both women and men may have masses of the genitourinary system, gastrointestinal system, or sarcomas of the abdomen.

Most instances of urinary incontinence may be distressing or embarrassing, but are not serious and can be improved with pelvic floor exercises. Incontinence that results in significant loss of urine is more likely to be serious and needs to be evaluated by a specialist. Contact a urinary incontinence treatment facility for more information.