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Incontinence (cont.)

When to Seek Medical Care and Nonsurgical Treatment

Patient Comments

Urinary incontinence is an underdiagnosed and underreported medical problem that is estimated to affect up to 13 million people in the United States, predominantly women. This includes 10%-35% of adults and 50%-84% of residents in nursing homes. It has also been estimated that most (50%-70%) women with urinary incontinence fail to seek appropriate treatment for the condition because of the social stigma. People with incontinence often live with this condition for six to nine years before seeking medical therapy. Living with urinary incontinence puts people at risk for rashes, sores, and skin and urinary tract infections. Effective treatments for this common problem are available in many cases.

Dietary Measures

Some foods can worsen symptoms of urinary frequency and urge incontinence. Changes in diet can help improve some people's symptoms. Monitoring the diet often requires reading food labels and avoiding foods and drinks that contain stimulants. Stimulants worsen the symptoms of urinary urgency and frequency.


  • Foods that contain heavy or hot spices can contribute to urge incontinence by irritating the bladder. Some examples of hot spices include curry, chili pepper, cayenne pepper, and dry mustard.
  • A second food group that may worsen symptoms is citrus fruit. Fruits and juices that are acidic can aggravate urge incontinence. Examples of fruits that have significant acidity include grapefruits, oranges, limes, and lemons.
  • A third food group that may worsen urinary bladder incontinence is chocolate-containing sweets. Chocolate snacks and treats contain caffeine, which is a bladder-irritating agent. Excessive intake of chocolate may worsen pre-existing bladder symptoms.


  • The quantity and type of drinks consumed can have an effect on urinary symptoms.
  • Drinking too much water can worsen pre-existing bladder symptoms. The exact amount of fluid needed depends on a person's lean body mass and so varies from person to person.
  • Many drinks contain caffeine. Caffeine-containing products produce excessive urine and worsen symptoms of urinary frequency and urgency. Caffeine-containing products include coffee, tea, hot chocolate, and colas. Chocolate milk and many over-the-counter medications also contain caffeine. Even decaffeinated coffee contains a small amount of caffeine. If an affected person consumes a large amount of caffeine, he or she should slowly decrease the amount of caffeine to avoid withdrawal symptoms such as headache and depression.
  • Drinking carbonated beverages, citrus fruits drinks, and acidic juices may worsen pre-existing voiding or urge symptoms.
  • Artificial sweeteners may contribute to urge incontinence.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/16/2015

Patient Comments & Reviews

The eMedicineHealth doctors ask about Incontinence:

Urinary Incontinence - Symptoms

What are your urinary incontinence symptoms?

Urinary Incontinence - Causes

Do you know what caused your urinary incontinence?

Urinary Incontinence - Experience

Urinary incontinence is a common problem. Please describe your experience with urinary incontinence.

Urinary Incontinence - Treatment With Exercise

Have anti-incontinence exercises helped your urinary incontinence?

Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Incontinence, Urinary: Surgical Therapies »

Urinary incontinence is a medical condition that has significant negative effects on quality of life and may cause social stigma, financial hardship, and associated medical problems.

Read More on Medscape Reference »

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