Urinary incontinence — the loss of bladder control — is a common and often embarrassing problem. The severity of urinary incontinence ranges from occasionally leaking urine when you cough or sneeze, to having an urge to urinate that’s so sudden and strong you don’t get to a toilet in time.
These factors increase your risk of developing urinary incontinence:
Sex – Women are more likely than men are to have stress incontinence. Pregnancy, childbirth, menopause and normal female anatomy account for this difference. However, men with prostate gland problems are at increased risk of urge and overflow incontinence.
Age – As you get older, the muscles in your bladder and urethra lose some of their strength. Changes with age reduce how much your bladder can hold and increase the chances of involuntary urine release. However, getting older doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll have incontinence. Incontinence isn’t normal at any age — except during infancy.
Being overweight – Being obese or overweight increases the pressure on your bladder and surrounding muscles, which weakens them and allows urine to leak out when you cough or sneeze.
Smoking – A chronic cough associated with smoking can cause episodes of incontinence or aggravate incontinence that has other causes. Constant coughing puts stress on your urinary sphincter, leading to stress incontinence. Smoking may also increase the risk of overactive bladder by causing bladder contractions.
Other diseases – Kidney disease or diabetes may increase your risk for incontinence.
Urinary incontinence isn’t a disease, it’s a symptom. It can be caused by everyday habits, underlying medical conditions or physical problems. A thorough evaluation by your doctor can help determine what’s behind your incontinence.