Urge Incontinence

What is urge incontinence?

Urge incontinence is a loss of bladder control that causes your bladder to squeeze at the wrong times and leak urine.

What is the cause?

Urge incontinence may be caused by problems that affect the nerves, such as diabetes, multiple sclerosis, stroke, or spinal cord or brain injuries.

Incontinence may be caused or made worse by problems such as:

  • Constipation
  • Infection
  • Tumors
  • A stone in the bladder
  • Bladder irritation or inflammation

Enlargement of the prostate gland. The prostate gland is part of a man’s reproductive system. It is about the size of a walnut and located between the bladder and the penis. The prostate gland surrounds the upper part of the urethra, the tube that carries urine from the bladder out through the penis. As many men get older, their prostate gets bigger and squeezes the urethra. This makes it harder to urinate and empty the bladder. It can happen in healthy people, too. The cause is not always known.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms may include:

  • Not being able to hold urine long enough to get to the toilet Having to urinate more often during the day or night
  • A sudden need to urinate

How is it diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your medical history and examine you. Urine samples will be checked for infection or other problems.

You may be referred to a specialist for further testing or treatment.

How is it treated?

Treatment may include:

  • Medicine to relax an irritable bladder or to treat infection
  • Bladder training, which teaches you to empty the bladder on schedule rather than waiting until you feel the urge. For example, you might sit on the toilet 20 to 30 minutes after each meal, at least twice between meals, and before you go to bed. You can adjust the schedule as you learn the frequency that works best. You can even set a timer to remind you when bathroom visits are due.
  • A catheter inserted into the bladder to drain urine.
  • A collecting device fitted over a man’s penis to hold urine.
  • Electrodes placed in the rectum or vagina to electrically stimulate and strengthen muscles of the pelvis and urethra. (The urethra is the tube that drains urine from the bladder.)

Sometimes surgery may be recommended.

How can I take care of myself?

Follow the full course of treatment prescribed by your healthcare provider. In addition:

  • Find ways to stay within easy reach of a bathroom.
  • Have a night-light and grab bars in your bathroom to help prevent falls when you are in a hurry.
  • If you use incontinence pads for protection, change them regularly.
  • Don’t try to control urine leakage by cutting back on fluids. It won’t help and may be harmful. Drink plenty of fluids throughout the day until about 3 hours before bedtime.
  • Keep your genital area as clean and dry as possible. Don’t use harsh soaps or bubble bath.
  • Avoid things that can irritate the bladder, such as alcohol, carbonated beverages, coffee or tea, chocolate, citrus fruits, tomatoes, or acidic fruit juices.

Ask your provider:

  • How and when you will hear your test results
  • If there are activities you should avoid and when you can return to your normal activities
  • How to take care of yourself at home
  • What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if you have them

Make sure you know when you should come back for a checkup. Keep all appointments for provider visits or tests.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-12-08
Last reviewed: 2014-12-08
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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