Is Urinary Incontinence Dampening Your Days?

Last updated: Apr 30, 2012


Do laughing, coughing, sneezing, and exercise sometimes make you leak urine? Do you have the urge to urinate without enough time to get to the bathroom before having an accident? If you’ve answered yes to these questions, then you are like many people who have urinary incontinence.

What is urinary incontinence?
“Urinary incontinence is a symptom that can result from certain habits, physical problems, and medical conditions. It can affect men and women,” says Summit Medical Group incontinence specialist and OB/GYN James Levey, MD, FACOG.

Urinary incontinence ranges in severity; but even mild cases can be uncomfortable and inconvenient.

Urinary incontinence can be temporary or persistent:

  • Temporary urinary incontinence can result from too many fluids, too few fluids, or too much alcohol. Certain medications such as sedatives, muscle relaxers, blood pressure drugs, and diuretics also can cause temporary urinary incontinence. Having a urinary infection or being constipated also can put pressure on your bladder and urethra and cause urine to leak
  • Chronic (or persistent) urinary continence can result from changes during and after pregnancy and childbirth. Aging, hormonal changes, being overweight, having a hysterectomy, painful bladder syndrome  (interstitial cystitis), bladder stones, obstructions such as tumors, neurologic disorders, and bladder cancer also can cause chronic urinary incontinence

Types of Incontinence

  • Stress Incontinence
    Stress incontinence happens when the muscle (or sphincter) at the base of the bladder is weak (or loose) and releases urine without warning. Pregnancy, childbirth, menopause, and age can contribute to stress incontinence. Pressure on the sphincter from coughing, sneezing, laughing, exercising, or lifting something heavy also can cause urine to leak
  • Urge Incontinence
    If you have urge incontinence, you might not be able to get to the bathroom in time to prevent an accident. That is because in urge incontinence, the bladder muscle contracts to push out urine only just before urine begins flowing. Other symptoms include needing to urinate frequently throughout the day and night. Urinary tract infections (UTIs), urethral and bladder irritants, bowel problems, Parkinson's disease, dementia, stroke, and injury or nervous system damage associated with multiple sclerosis can contribute to urge incontinence. When its cause is unknown, urge incontinence is commonly referred to as overactive bladder (OA)
  • Overflow Incontinence
    People with overflow incontinence cannot fully empty their bladders, often produce a weak urine flow, and tend to leak urine regularly. Causes of overflow incontinence include a damaged bladder, blocked urethra, or nerve damage from diabetes
  • Functional Incontinence
    Functional incontinence refers to incontinence in people with physical disabilities or mental disabilities such as arthritis or dementia that can contribute to incontinence
  • Gross total incontinence
    People who cannot store urine in their bladders and continuously leak urine and/or have periodic uncontrolled urine leakage have gross total incontinence. Spinal cord injuries and urinary system injuries can cause gross total incontinence
  • Mixed Incontinence
    People with mixed incontinence have more than one type of urinary incontinence

Risk for urinary incontinence includes:

  • Being female
    Women are more likely than men to have stress incontinence from pregnancy, childbirth, and menopause
  • Age
    As the bladder ages, it can lose its elasticity and strength, making it more prone to incontinence
  • Being overweight puts pressure on and weakens the bladder and surrounding muscles, making it more difficult keep urine from leaking when coughing or sneezing
  • Smoking
    Coughing associated with smoking can cause and aggravate urinary incontinence from other causes. In addition, excessive coughing puts pressure on the urinary sphincter and can cause stress incontinence. Smokers also are at risk for developing overactive bladder
  • Certain diseases such as diabetes, kidney disease, and bladder cancer can increase incontinence risk

If it’s left untreated, urinary incontinence can cause:

  • Skin problems such as rashes, infections, and sores
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Sleep loss and fatigue
  • Loss of productivity at work
  • Loss of activities such as exercising and social interactions
  • Personal problems, including self consciousness, depression/anxiety, and sexual problems
  • Falls in elderly people who are rushing to get to the bathroom

Urinary incontinence treatment can include:

  • Kegel exercises to strengthen muscles of the pelvic floor
  • Bladder training to reduce urge incontinence
  • Medication
  • Bladder support with a removable device (also known as a pessary)
  • Surgery in some cases

“Because incontinence is a problem many people ages 45 and older share, it’s not something to be embarrassed about!” says Dr. Levey. He adds, “The good news is that there are successful treatments to control or eliminate urinary incontinence depending on its cause.”

If you’re having symptoms of urinary incontinence, you are not alone!

If you are a woman with urinary incontinence,
call Dr. Levey today at 908-769-0100.
He can help determine what's causing the problem
and develop a personalized treatment plan for you!


Summit Medical Group Urology
at 908-277-8679
also offers options for evaluating and treating incontinence
in men and women

If you would like to discuss all your options
for evaluating and treating incontinence,
you also may call
your Summit Medical Group primary care physician.