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Urinary Incontinence

Also indexed as:Urge Incontinence, Stress Incontinence, Overactive Bladder, Bladder Control
Urinary Incontinence: Main Image

About This Condition

Urinary incontinence is loss of bladder control resulting in leakage of urine. There are two main types of urinary incontinence. Stress incontinence occurs during laughing, coughing, sneezing, exercising, or other types of physical straining, when abdominal pressure from these activities overcomes weakened urinary tract and pelvic floor muscles that normally prevent leakage. Urge incontinence, also called overactive bladder, occurs when bladder or other urinary muscles contract inappropriately. Mixed incontinence refers to a condition that has features of both stress and urge incontinence.1

Women are twice as likely as men to experience urinary incontinence, and older people are also more susceptible to the condition. Stress incontinence is often related to pregnancy- and childbirth-related and age-related loosening of urinary tract tissues, but can also result from surgery or trauma to pelvic tissues. Urge incontinence can result from nerve damage due to stroke and other neurological diseases but often has no apparent cause.2


Urinary leakage during exercise, or when coughing, sneezing, or laughing, is the common feature of stress incontinence. Urge incontinence is characterized by a sudden need to urinate, followed by a strong contraction of the bladder, resulting in involuntary leakage of urine. Urge incontinence can also be associated with the need to urinate frequently during the day and night.

Healthy Lifestyle Tips

Smoking increases the risk of urinary incontinence in women and men according to some,3, 4 though not all,5 studies. Whether stopping smoking might reduce symptoms of urinary incontinence has not been investigated.Exercise can increase episodes of stress incontinence in the short term,6 but regular physical activity is associated with lower risk of urinary incontinence middle-aged and older women,7[6] and in men following prostate surgery.8 Some of the benefit of regular exercise may be to prevent weight gain, since overweight and obesity increase the risk of urinary incontinence.9 Weight loss programs, most of which included regular exercise, have been shown to reduce symptoms and improve quality of life for women with urinary incontinence in several controlled trials.10, 11, 12, 13, 14

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The information presented in Aisle7 is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. Self-treatment is not recommended for life-threatening conditions that require medical treatment under a doctor's care. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires June 2016.

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