Home Health & Wellness The Top Causes of Bladder Incontinence in the Elderly and How to Manage It

The Top Causes of Bladder Incontinence in the Elderly and How to Manage It

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Bladder incontinence is a common occurrence as you get older people, and in a woman that gave birth or is going through menopause. This causes uncontrollable leaking of urine, which in it can be embarrassing for a lot of people.

Urinary tract infections, pelvic disorders, and enlarged prostate can also cause this.

Here is some information about the causes of bladder incontinence, how to treat it if you have it, and how to prevent it before it happens.

Different types of incontinence

Not all incontinence is the same, there are several different types. Each type has different characteristics and causes, and also they have different triggers for urine leakage. We need to know the right type of incontinence because often, this is important for the treatment plan. 

Here are the types of incontinence:

Urge incontinence 

This type is just like the name says, you need to go to the toilet right now. You often don’t have enough time to make it, and you leak urine.

A medical condition often causes this called an overactive bladder. You can get an overactive bladder from many things, things as nerve damage, being overweight, menopause, weak pelvic muscles, and infections.

Also, there are medications and beverages(usually alcohol and coffee) that can cause an overactive bladder.

Stress incontinence 

This usually occurs when you are doing some type of activity, and that is called stress incontinence. This type of incontinence happens when your pelvic floor muscles are very weak and don’t support your organs as they used to.

In this type, leaks can happen when you do something like sneezing, running, laughing, or when you caught, or lift something (doesn’t have to be a heavy object). All of these actions have an impact on your bladder and puts all the pressure there, so if your pelvis is weak it can’t hold it and leakage happens.

When it comes to this woman who gave birth at a high risk of developing this type. Also, men that undergo prostate surgery can develop this type of incontinence.

Overflow incontinence

When your bladder doesn’t empty when you finish urinating, that is called overflow incontinence. Look at your bladder like a glass of water if you empty it and left a little bit it can still spill when you move it around.

People who suffer from overflow incontinence usually never empty their bladder when urinating. This results in small leakage over time instead of a normal big stream of urine.

This type of incontinence occurs more in people with chronic diseases like stroke, diabetes, or multiple sclerosis. Also, it can be a common occurrence in men who have a large prostate.

Mixed incontinence 

In this type of incontinence, you can have a mix of two or more types that all lead to urine leakage issues. The most common type of mixed incontinence is when you have stress incontinence and an overactive bladder.

It is important with this type to pay attention to what causes leakages. Identifying what causes leakage is the best way to manage and treat it.

If you have any of these types, we would recommend you try absorbent underwear for incontinence.

Causes of Incontinence

There are a lot of different reasons why you could experience incontinence. These can vary from the fact are you a woman or man. 

Some are just temporary health conditions, while others can be chronic medical conditions. Chronic conditions usually don’t end with surgery or treatments and you need to be able to manage them over a longer period.

Short-term causes

  • Urinary tract infections. This can cause pain and the urge to pee more frequently, but once treated it usually goes away.
  • Pregnancy. During pregnancy, your bladder has a lot of pressure on it. Most woman experience incontinence after giving birth. It should go away after a couple of weeks.
  • Medications. Medications like antidepressants and diuretics have a side effect of incontinence.
  • Beverages. Coffee and alcohol can make you urinate much more often. When you stop drinking them, it goes away almost instantly.
  • Constipation. A hard and dry stool can cause you to have bladder control issues.

Long-term or chronic causes

  • Pelvic floor disorders. If you have an issue with your pelvic floor, it can impact your other organs like your bladder.
  • Stroke. A stroke usually causes you to have problems with control over your muscles. This can affect the muscles that control your urinary system.
  • Diabetes. If you have diabetes, your body produces more urine, which can lead to leakage issues.
  • Menopause. This is when hormone levels are changing rapidly and your pelvic floor muscles can also become much weaker resulting in leakage.
  • Multiple Sclerosis. If you have multiple sclerosis, you might not have control over your bladder resulting in leakage.
  • Enlarged prostate. If you have an enlarged prostate, it can cause more than a few issues with bladder control.
  • After prostate surgery. During the surgeries, the sphincter muscle can be damaged, leading to stress incontinence.

Treating urinary incontinence

There are a lot of factors that your doctor will consider before creating your treatment plan for incontinence. The type of incontinence and the way it affects your life are big parts of that consideration.

Your doctor will consult with you about what treatment plan is most acceptable to you and if you can adapt it to your lifestyle. There are three most used types of treating incontinence:

  • Medications. There are several medications that can reduce leakage. This method is often used when patients have overactive bladder.
  • Lifestyle change. If you are living an unhealthy lifestyle (many of us are, we are not judging) there can be improvement with your incontinence by just changing some day-to-day things that you do.
  • Surgery. Surgery is in many cases the last option, whereas the other two failed surgery might work. This can range from just injections to more complex surgeries. Your doctor will discuss with you the best option based on your case.

Each of these has its pros and cons that you will discuss with your doctor.

Closing thoughts

Urinary or bladder incontinence is the occurrence where you are losing your ability to control your bladder. This can result in small leaks, emptying your bladder without your control, or just something in the middle.

This can be short or long-term, either way, you should do regular checkups with your doctor to be able to manage it effectively. If it’s short-term incontinence, doctors will probably try to resolve the health issue that causes you to have incontinence problems.


Ellen Diamond did her degree in psychology at the University of Hertfordshire. She is interested in mental health, wellness, and lifestyle. 

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