Incontinence FAQs (cont.)
What causes incontinence?
Several factors contribute to incontinence. Many causes can be treated, thus eliminating symptoms of incontinence. Some causes are gender-specific, meaning that they occur in males or females exclusively. Among the known causes and contributing factors for incontinence are the following:
- Urinary tract infection
- Medication side effects
- Impacted stool
- Muscle weakness in the bladder and surrounding areas
- Enlarged prostate or prostate surgery in men
- Spinal cord injury
- Disabilities or impaired mobility
- Neurological disease (stroke, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease)
- Pelvic surgery, such as a hysterectomy in women
- Radiation therapy to the pelvis for cancer
- Childbirth (risk factors include vaginal delivery, long labor, and large babies)
- Prolapsed bladder in women (in which a portion of the bladder descends into the vagina)
- Bladder disease such as bladder cancer
- Fistula (abnormal connection between the bladder or ureters and the vagina)
Difficulties with toilet training in childhood have nothing to do with incontinence occurring later in life. Having an incontinent parent does not automatically mean a person will suffer with incontinence later in life.
What lifestyle and health factors reduce the likelihood of incontinence?
The following lifestyle habits can help you maintain bladder and urinary health:
- Urinate regularly, and do not delay having bowel movements.
- Drink adequate fluids, 6-8 cups a day, to maintain a urinary output of 50 ounces per day, more if you are exercising or sweating due to hot weather.
- Limit alcohol and caffeinated drinks.
- If you smoke, quit.
- Maintain a healthy weight (body mass index < 25).
- Eat a healthy diet low in fat, sugar, and salt.
- Limit consumption of spicy foods, chocolate, and citrus or acidic fruits.
- Exercise regularly. Kegel exercises (exercises that strengthen the muscles of the pelvic floor) also help women strengthen muscles used during urination.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/8/2014
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