Bladder Control Issues

Overview

Why is it so difficult to talk about bladder control?

Millions of men and women suffer from loss of bladder control. Bladder incontinence is twice as common in women because pregnancy, childbirth and menopause can affect pelvic muscle strength and damage nerves that control the bladder.

Many people feel embarrassed or ashamed to talk about their bladder control problems, yet many effective treatments are available. Your doctor may not ask about urinary function during an exam, so you should speak up if you are struggling with bladder control issues.

What are the different types of bladder control loss?

  • Stress incontinence is caused by sudden pressure on the bladder. Exercise, sneezing, laughing, or heavy lifting may be just a few reasons for urine leakage. Younger and middle-aged women near or at menopause experience this most commonly.
  • Urge incontinence happens when you are unable to hold on when you have an urge to urinate and cannot make it to the toilet. People with diabetes, stroke, MS, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s disease may have this problem.
  • Overflow incontinence happens when the bladder is constantly full and cannot be completely emptied. An enlarged prostate blocking the urethra (tube that urine flows through) or a spinal cord injury may cause this condition.
  • Functional incontinence may occur if you have a condition that prevents you from getting to the toilet in time. Arthritis or other disorders can keep you from being able to move quickly.

Symptoms and Causes

What are the causes of loss of bladder control?

Short-term loss of bladder control may come from urinary tract infections, vaginal infections, constipation, and some medications. However, if your loss of bladder control lasts longer than a week, tell your doctor.

Long-term loss of bladder control may be caused by:

  • Weak muscles in the bladder
  • Overactive bladder muscles
  • Damage to nerves in the bladder
  • Blockage from an enlarged prostate
  • Excess weightWhy get treatment for loss of bladder control?

Bladder control problems can be embarrassing and can cause you to needlessly cut back on the activities that you enjoy. They may also be a sign of a serious underlying health condition. Bladder incontinence may be a symptom of kidney disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis (MS), and other diseases.

Management and Treatment

How is loss of bladder control treated?

Non-surgical treatments are often recommended to help treat bladder control issues. These include:

  • Physical therapy and exercise
  • Weight loss
  • Reducing intake of alcohol and caffeine
  • Electrical stimulation of the nerves that control the bladder
  • Bladder retraining by going to the bathroom at set times
  • Kegel exercises to strengthen pelvic muscles
  • Bladder control device inserted into vagina that repositions urethra to reduce leakage
  • Biofeedback to help patients learn to control the bladder muscles

Depending on the type of leakage and how bothersome it is—and if patients do not respond to the non-surgical treatments—surgery and other interventions can be very successful. In most cases, they can be done as an outpatient procedure.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 08/26/2015.

References

  • National Institute on Aging. Accessed 6/18/2015.Urinary Incontinence (https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/topics/urinary-incontinence)
  • Centers for Disease Control. Accessed 6/18/2015.Prevalence of Incontinence Among Older Americans (http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/series/sr_03/sr03_036.pdf)
  • Office on Women’s Health. Accessed 6/18/2015.Urinary Incontinence Fact Sheet (http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/urinary-incontinence.html)

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