Urinary Incontinence

Causes

Urinary incontinence (UI) has a variety of causes, including foods and beverages, medications, certain medical conditions, and problems with walking or getting up from bed.    

Beverages and Foods That Can Worsen UI

  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine (coffee, cola, and tea including green tea)
  • Carbonated beverages
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Foods high in spice or sugar
  • Foods high in acid, such as citrus fruits

Medications and Supplements That Can Cause or Worsen UI

  • Diuretics, or “water pills”
  • Some heart and blood pressure medications
  • Some cold and allergy medications
  • Some medications for depression and anxiety
  • Some medications for diabetes
  • Some medications for dementia
  • Muscle relaxants
Talk to your healthcare provider about any medications you are taking that might be causing UI. Never stop any medications without talking to your healthcare provider first.

Medical Conditions That Can Cause or Worsen UI

  • Sleep apnea
  • Arthritis (making it hard to walk)
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Constipation
  • Prostate problems in men (including an enlarged prostate)
  • Having had a hysterectomy
  • Obesity
  • Some neurologic diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, dementia, stroke or spinal injury

Risk Factors for Urinary Incontinence

Gender

Stress incontinence is more common in women, both because of normal anatomy, and because of other life events that are unique to women, such as pregnancy, childbirth, and menopause. In men, prostate gland problems can cause urge and rarely overflow incontinence.

Age

With aging, bladder spasms that the brain cannot control become more common.

Being Overweight

Extra weight puts more pressure on your bladder and surrounding muscles, which can cause urine to leak, especially when you cough or sneeze.

Complications

Untreated UI can increase your risk of other health problems, including:

  • Urinary tract infections
  • Skin problems, such as rashes, sores, and infections from being exposed to wet skin
  • Social withdrawal, isolation, and depression from fear of accidents and odor
  • Falls and fractures, especially from getting up at night or rushing to get to the toilet
  • Sexual problems

Last Updated November 2020