Causes of Incontinence

The causes of incontinence will vary depending on the type of incontinence. While understanding urinary incontinence, you should bear in mind that this is a symptom and not the disease itself, and it is usually on account of underlying physical or medical problems.

Causes of urinary incontinence include:

  • Alcohol and Caffeine: Alcohol and caffeine both act as diuretics and a bladder stimulants that may thereby result in a sudden urge to urinate.
  • Overhydration: Urinary incontinence may also occur because of consuming a lot of fluids over a short period of time which puts undue pressure on the bladder by increasing the amount of urine.
  • Bladder Irritation: There are also certain foods and beverages such as corn syrup, tea, carbonated drinks, spicy foods, tomatoes and the likes that tend to aggravate the bladder, resulting in incontinence.
  • Medications: The intake of certain medications for conditions such as blood pressure, heart problems as well as muscle relaxants, sedatives and so on, may also result in urinary incontinence in certain people.
  • Urinary Tract Infection: There are also certain medical conditions resulting in incontinence such as urinary tract infection wherein the person will have a very string urge to urinate. Some of the symptoms of a urinary infection include a burning sensation while urinating and foul smelling urine.
  • Constipation may also contribute to urinary incontinence because the rectum and the bladder tend to share a significant number of nerves and are also located close to each other. When an individual is constipated, the compacted stool causes the nerves to be overactive and hence increase the frequency of urination. In some cases, this compacted stool may also interfere with the bladder being emptied resulting in the leakage of urine.
  • Many pregnant women also tend to experience stress incontinence which is mostly on account of the growing uterus as well as the various hormonal changes. During childbirth, the vaginal muscles are exposed to a significant amount of stress, which may also result in incontinence later.
  • Incontinence is also associated with advancing age as the bladder muscles tend to get weak and hence the ability of the bladder to store urine is reduced. Similarly women also tend to be prone to urinary incontinence post menopause on account of a fall in the production of estrogen which is the hormone that keeps the urethra and bladder healthy.
  • Other medical conditions that may result in incontinence are hysterectomy, prostatitis, enlarged prostate, painful bladder syndrome, bladder cancer and neurological disorders.
  • Psychological wellbeing: While the implications and influence of psychological conditions and mental health disorders has been largely ignored, some studies have clearly shown that the condition is more prevalent or tends to be more problematic among individuals with a more compromised lower sense of well being.

Similarly some of the causes of bowel incontinence include:

  • Constipation: Constipation results in the muscles of the anus getting weak and stretching, and in some cases, persistent constipation may also result in the nerves of the rectum as well as the anus becoming less responsive to any stool that may be present in the rectum.
  • Diarrhea is also known to be one of the causes of bowel incontinence a solid stool is easier to retain in the rectum as compared to loose stools.
  • Muscle damage. Sometimes, the rings of muscles at the end of the rectum tend to get injured. These rings are known as the anal sphincter and they perform the function of holding in the stool. Damage to the anal sphincter usually occurs at the time of childbirth more so if the doctor has used forceps at the time of the delivery.
  • Some of the other causes of bowel incontinence are surgery, nerve damage, loss of storage capacity in the rectum, rectal cancer, piles, rectal prolapse and so on.

Frequently asked questions
  1. Jacques Corcos, Sylvie Beaulieu, Jenny Donovan, Michelle Naughton, Momokazu Gotoh, MEMBERS of the SYMPTOM QUALITY OF LIFE ASSESSMENT COMMITTEE OF THE FIRST INTERNATIONAL CONSULTATION ON INCONTINENCE*, Quality of Life Assessment in Men and Women With Urinary Incontinence, The Journal of Urology, Volume 168, Issue 3, September 2002, Pages 896-905, ISSN 0022-5347, 10.1016/S0022-5347(05)64540-5.
  2. Geoffrey W. Cundiff, Robert L. Harris, Kimberly W. Coates, Richard C. Bump, Clinical predictors of urinary incontinence in women, American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Volume 177, Issue 2, August 1997, Pages 262-267, ISSN 0002-9378, 10.1016/S0002-9378(97)70185-6.
  3. Felix W. Leung, John F. Schnelle, Urinary and Fecal Incontinence in Nursing Home Residents, Gastroenterology Clinics of North America, Volume 37, Issue 3, September 2008, Pages 697-707, ISSN 0889-8553, 10.1016/j.gtc.2008.06.005.