It doesn’t take much to detect the signs of bladder incontinence. Urine leaks and frequent bathroom trips are clear indicators that something’s going on with your urinary tract. You know it’s not functioning normally but have no idea why.
Bladder incontinence is very common, but the condition comes with a wide scope of possible causes. Here’s a quick rundown on bladder incontinence and what can cause it.
What is bladder incontinence?
Bladder incontinence is a condition where a person loses control of their bladder. People with bladder incontinence may involuntarily leak urine or feel the sudden urge to use the bathroom.
The signs of bladder incontinence are hard to ignore. Many people with this condition experience urine leaks throughout the day, which is often quite embarrassing and can diminish your confidence. You may visit the bathroom more than others or have trouble fully emptying the bladder. Incontinence can also lead to sleep disturbances because you’re waking up multiple times to use the bathroom.
Bladder incontinence can be short-term or a lifelong condition. A few simple changes to your lifestyle might be enough to make incontinence go away. But for some people, bladder incontinence is an ongoing problem because it’s related to muscle weakness or a neurological disorder. Whether your case is temporary or permanent, treating the cause of incontinence can improve symptoms.
Causes of bladder incontinence
Several factors may cause a person to develop bladder incontinence. These risk factors primarily affect older adults and women who have experienced childbirth or menopause. Check out the following potential causes to see which one relates most to your situation.
- Pregnancy and childbirth: Bladder incontinence is common among women during pregnancy and after giving birth. A growing fetus will expand the uterus, which places extra pressure on the bladder. This form of incontinence usually goes away after the baby is born. However, vaginal delivery may weaken muscles in the bladder and pelvic floor. Delivery can also damage nerve cells and contribute to uncontrollable bladder spasms. Bladder incontinence caused by childbirth often requires lifelong management.
- Menopause: Incontinence may become an ongoing condition in menopausal women. Once a woman begins menopause, estrogen levels start to decrease. Estrogen protects lining tissue in the bladder and urethra. As a result, the urinary tract becomes less efficient at controlling the flow of urine. Menopausal women may experience bladder incontinence to varying degrees, and some may not develop the condition at all.
- Urinary tract infections (UTIs): Bacterial infections along the urinary tract lead to several uncomfortable symptoms, one of which being bladder incontinence. Bacteria irritate the bladder’s lining, which can make you feel like you need to urinate more often. Another reason UTIs cause frequent urination is because they make it more difficult to fully empty the bladder. Thankfully, this form of incontinence should go away once the UTI clears up. Work with your doctor to ensure UTIs and the accompanying incontinence don’t become a recurring problem.
- Neurological disorders: For some people, bladder incontinence is the result of a neurological disorder. This means there’s miscommunication between the brain and urinary tract. People with neurological disorders have nerve damage in certain parts of the body, and this condition can negatively affect bladder control. Neurological disorders may cause the bladder muscles to spasm, which often leads to urine leaks without warning. Treatments are available to help regulate the bladder nerves.
- Diuretic food and beverages: Some people are extra-sensitive to certain types of food. They might only experience bladder incontinence after ingesting diuretic foods, beverages or medications. Diuretic food products stimulate the bladder and increase urine volume. Examples include alcohol, caffeine, spicy or sugary foods and blood pressure medication. If you’re sensitive to diuretics, you can manage symptoms by learning which foods exacerbate your bladder incontinence and avoiding them.
- Chronic joint pain: The cause of bladder incontinence might not have anything to do with the urinary tract at all. Many older adults experience bladder leaks because they can’t make it to the bathroom in time. Chronic joint pain is common in the aging process, and reduced mobility can make bathrooms less accessible.
Bladder incontinence is embarrassing, but if you suffer from it, you’re not alone. Many others with the same condition have found ways to improve their quality of life. Discuss your symptoms with a doctor, and they will find out what’s causing the bladder incontinence. Getting to the root of the problem will connect you with the right treatment plan and put your energy back into what’s most important.