Several factors can affect bladder control. Urinary incontinence is a common problem where a person leaks urine involuntarily. In some cases, incontinence is temporary, though it may be chronic with certain conditions. Temporary factors that can affect bladder control include drinking alcohol or caffeine as well as taking certain medications. Persistent incontinence may be due to pregnancy, bladder stones, prostate problems, neurological disorders, spinal injuries, or obstruction of the urinary tract.
Temporary causes of loss of bladder control are typically easy to correct with simple lifestyle changes. Beverages that contain alcohol or caffeine act as diuretics and bladder stimulants, so patients that have trouble with urinary incontinence after drinking these beverages can often correct the problem by choosing other liquids. Patients who experience incontinence while taking sedatives, muscle relaxers, or medications for heart problems or high blood pressure should talk with their doctors about the possibility of the medications leading to urinary problems. Urinary incontinence caused by medications often improves with a change in dosage or switching to a different medication.
Chronic bladder control problems can be difficult to treat. Pregnant women often experience urinary incontinence because of increased pressure on the bladder from the additional weight of the uterus and hormonal changes. Some women experience problems with bladder control after childbirth if the nerves in the bladder are damaged or the bladder is pushed out of position during delivery. Bladder stones can lead to urine leakage, burning, and an urgent need to urinate.
Men who suffer from an enlarged or inflamed prostate often have difficulties with bladder control. Enlarged prostates are most common in men over the age of 40, though the condition can affect younger men as well. Prostate cancer sometimes causes stress incontinence, a condition where urine leaks in response to a sudden bodily function, such as coughing or sneezing. Surgery and radiation treatments for prostate cancer can also affect the bladder.
People with certain neurological disorders or spinal injuries may experience partial or full urinary incontinence as a result of damaged nerves around the bladder. A tumor or stone in the urinary tract or kidneys can obstruct the flow of urine and lead to difficulty with bladder control. Some of these bladder problems are irreversible, though many people are able to improve their urinary continence with a combination of at-home treatments and medication.
Taking frequent, scheduled bathroom breaks can help prevent accidents and help patients train their bladders to minimize incontinence problems. Kegel exercises strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, making it more likely that patients who suffer from incontinence will be able to hold the flow of urine until they can use the bathroom. Medications, including imipramine, oxybutynin, darifenacin, and trospium, can help relieve the symptoms of an overactive bladder. Patients who have severe bladder control problems may require further medical treatment, such as nerve stimulators, urethral inserts, or surgery to help relieve the problem.