Medical conditions that can cause incontinence

There are various unrelated conditions that can pose a risk of bladder problems. Although initially distressing, treating the underlying issue can often mean an end to these types of incontinence.
 
To help you recognise which medical conditions cause incontinence, we've put together a list of the common bladder problems associated with certain disorders. If you suspect you are someone you're caring for has any of these symptoms, it's important to see a doctor for an official diagnosis.

Incontinence after a stroke

It’s very common for people to experience urinary incontinence after a stroke, affecting around 50% of people admitted to hospital. A stroke may have damaged the part of the brain that controls the bladder and bowel, or affected your awareness of your surroundings, resulting in leakage without you realising. Mobility difficulties after a stroke may also mean you are not always able to get to the toilet in time, or some medicines prescribed after a stroke may affect bladder control. 
 
There are a number of different types of bladder problems that may affect people as a result of a stroke. These include: 
 
Frequent urination – passing urine more often
 
Urgency – experiencing a constant or urgent need to urinate
 
Stress incontinence – leakage when pressure is put on the bladder, e.g. when you laugh, sneeze or cough
 
Overflow incontinence – Also known as urinary retention after a stroke , this is when the bladder doesn’t empty properly and fills up quickly resulting in leakage 
 
Although recovery is different for everyone, stroke incontinence  problems after a stroke usually improve with time.

Diabetes and incontinence

People with diabetes may experience bladder problems. Although the exact link between diabetes and urinary incontinence  is unknown, there are a number of ways the condition can contribute to bladder issues: 
 
• Nerve damage – damage to the nerves that affect the pelvic floor and bladder (neuropathy) can happen if blood sugar levels are not controlled 
 
• Weight – being overweight can put pressure on the bladder and increase the risk of urgency or leakage
 
• UTIs – a compromised immune system may increase the risk of urinary tract infections 
 
Nocturia – an increased need to urinate at night can be a sign of uncontrolled blood sugar levels 
 
• High blood sugar – elevated blood sugar levels can increase thirst, leading to high fluid intake and frequent urination 

Obesity and incontinence

Evidence suggests that being overweight can cause bladder problems, and having a high BMI is seen as one of the most common causes of incontinence. This is because  carrying extra weight in your abdominal area can put additional stress on the pelvic floor muscles and urethral structures, causing them to become weaker and increasing your chances of experiencing urinary incontinence.  
 
Obesity is often associated with stress incontinence, as the excess weight put on the bladder is exacerbated by laughing, coughing or sneezing. As a result, losing weight and exercising can help to reduce bladder weakness

UTIs and incontinence

Urinary tract infections can cause incontinence, with UIT symptoms including an urgent or frequent need to urinate. Find out more about urinary tract infections here.

Dementia and incontinence

People with dementia are more likely to experience incontinence and have accidents or difficulties using the toilet than those who don’t. In some cases, people with dementia may experience incontinence due to the messages between the brain and bladder not working properly. Other reasons for dementia incontinence  may include: 
 
• Not reacting in time to the urge to use the toilet
 
• Reduced mobility meaning they are unable to get to a toilet
 
• Difficulties communicating the need to use the toilet and forgetting how to use the toilet, or other functions such as removing clothes
As a carer, there are things you can do to reduce accidents: 
 
• Help the person with dementia to identify the toilet, and make sure it’s clearly visible and easy for them to get to
  
• Help the person with dementia choose clothing which is easy to remove when using the toilet, and the right incontinence products  to protect against leakage
 
• If the person has reduced mobility, consider installing handrails or a raised seat to make it easier for them
 
• Disable any locks to prevent the person with dementia from locking themselves in 
 
• Remove any mirrors as the person with dementia may confuse their reflection for someone in the room and refuse to go
 
• If using the toilet becomes too difficult for the person with dementia, consider getting a commode and teaching them how to use it
 
 
Getting the right treatment from your GP for any of these conditions is the first step to managing medical-related incontinence. Other things you can do include pelvic floor exercises to strengthen your bladder, monitoring fluid intake, and using incontinence products to protect leaks. Shop our range for men and women now, or for more information on taking care of a loved one with incontinence, visit our articles for carers .