What are the Different Causes of Incontinence? (with pictures)

Anna T.
Anna T.
The human urinary tract.
The human urinary tract.

Some of the most common causes of incontinence in women are weakened pelvic floor muscles, aging, and obesity. In men, incontinence may also be the result of aging and is occasionally a side effect of having an enlarged prostate. Many people may have incontinence issues because of several different problems combined rather than just one primary cause. Incontinence is also broken down into different types, including urge, stress, and overflow incontinence.

Incontinence may be a side effect of having an enlarged prostate.
Incontinence may be a side effect of having an enlarged prostate.

Childbirth is one of the most common causes of incontinence for many women. Having a baby can severely weaken the pelvic floor muscles, particularly if labor was long and difficult. The weakened muscles tend to make it harder to control the urge to urinate, and leakage from sneezing, laughing or coughing is often more frequent after giving birth. Doctors normally advise women to do kegel exercises, which strengthen the muscles in the pelvic floor, to help with childbirth-related incontinence. Women who regularly do these exercises are often able to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles enough over time to prevent further incontinence issues.

Elderly people are considered the highest risk group for urge incontinence.
Elderly people are considered the highest risk group for urge incontinence.

Side effects related to aging are some of the primary causes of incontinence in men and women. When people age, they are typically not able to hold as much urine inside the bladder. Additionally, the muscles in the bladder lose some of their strength. This makes it harder to completely empty the bladder each time a person urinates. Older men are also at greater risk of prostate problems, such as an enlarged prostate, which can block off the flow of urine through the urethra.

Various medications can be prescribed to treat incontinence in the elderly.
Various medications can be prescribed to treat incontinence in the elderly.

Women who are going through menopause may experience incontinence problems due to reduced amounts of estrogen in the body. A lack of estrogen can cause the urethral lining to become thinner and weaker, which makes it harder to keep it closed. For this reason, women who are going through menopause might occasionally leak urine unexpectedly with almost no warning beforehand.

Obesity is often listed as one of the major causes of incontinence as well. The extra weight a person carries around can put more pressure directly onto the bladder, which makes it harder to control the urge to urinate. This weight may also make a person feel as though they need to urinate more frequently than they actually do. People who are obese and experience incontinence may see a drastic improvement in their symptoms with weight loss.

Common types of incontinence include stress, urge and overflow incontinence. Stress incontinence is most often experienced by women who have had children. It occurs when pressure from laughing, coughing, or sneezing is placed on the stomach muscles and urine leaks out as a result. Urge incontinence is the type that comes on suddenly, typically without enough warning to get to the bathroom in time. Elderly people are considered the highest risk group for urge incontinence. Overflow incontinence is often the result of a bladder that is too full and leaks urine sporadically; this type is sometimes experienced by men with enlarged prostates.

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    • The human urinary tract.
      The human urinary tract.
    • Incontinence may be a side effect of having an enlarged prostate.
      Incontinence may be a side effect of having an enlarged prostate.
    • Elderly people are considered the highest risk group for urge incontinence.
      Elderly people are considered the highest risk group for urge incontinence.
    • Various medications can be prescribed to treat incontinence in the elderly.
      Various medications can be prescribed to treat incontinence in the elderly.