It’s embarrassing and a little bit frightening when you lose control bladder control, especially if you’re in public. Up to 70% of women never seek medical attention for incontinence because they’re too embarrassed to talk to their doctor about it. Incontinence can be as simple as leaking a few drops of urine when you cough or sneeze, called stress incontinence, or a sense of urgency that sends you running to the bathroom – not always in time. There are lots of reasons that urinary incontinence happens and sometimes it’s only a temporary problem that resolves once the cause is removed. Temporary urinary incontinence has a variety of causes, some of which are related to diet or lifestyle. Here are some of the most common reasons why you might have temporary bladder control problems.
You Have a Urinary Tract Infection
As a physician, this is the most common cause of temporary incontinence I see in practice. Urinary tract infections are most common in women. When they occur, they cause inflammation and irritation of the urinary tract that gives you the feeling you have to urinate constantly. The urge to urinate can be so severe that it leads to incontinence. Fortunately, the symptoms subside once you treat the infection. If you’re experiencing incontinence, pain with urination, blood in your urine or the constant need to urinate, see your doctor. They’ll take a urine sample to rule out an infection.
Certain things you eat or drink can irritate the lining of your bladder and cause bladder symptoms including incontinence. Some common culprits are fruit juice, artificial sweeteners and caffeinated beverages like tea, coffee and soft drinks. Tea, coffee and soft drinks contain caffeine, a bladder irritant. Plus, coffee is a diuretic that increases urine production. Alcohol is another diuretic that can send you scrambling to the bathroom to avoid an “accident.” If you’ve had bladder or urinary tract issues in the past, it’s best to keep caffeine, alcohol and other bladder irritants out of your diet.
Medications are another common cause of temporary incontinence. The blood pressure or heart medication you’re taking may do a good job of controlling your blood pressure, but some types can also aggravate pre-existing urinary tract issues or cause incontinence. Not all blood pressure medications cause this problem, so check with your doctor to see if yours could be contributing. Diuretics or “water pills” can also cause problems since they increase the amount of urine you produce. Other types of medications that can cause urinary control problems include anti-depressants, muscle relaxants and medications used to treat insomnia. This type of incontinence may be corrected by changing medications to one that’s less likely to increase the need to urinate. Talk to your doctor about this.
Strangely enough, not being able to move your bowels can make it harder to control your bladder. When your rectum is distended with waste, it puts pressure on your bladder. This can lead to more frequent urination or bladder control problems. Eat a fiber-rich diet or take a natural laxative like psyllium to treat the constipation and it may lessen the urge to urinate.
It’s not uncommon for women who are pregnant to have temporary problems with incontinence, most commonly stress incontinence where they leak a few drops of urine when they cough, sneeze or laugh. This happens because the enlarging uterus puts pressure on the bladder. This usually resolves after pregnancy, but some women continue to experience problems post-pregnancy because childbirth weakens the pelvic muscles that support the bladder. Kegel exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor help with this problem.
The Bottom Line?
These are some of the most common causes of temporary urinary incontinence, but incontinence can also be caused by more serious problems. In men, an enlarged prostate can be a contributing factor and in both men and women damage to the nerves that control the bladder from stroke, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and other neurological problems can be a cause. That’s why it’s important to get this symptom evaluated by a doctor.
Medscape. “Urinary Incontinence”
Medscape Family Medicine Education. “Urinary Incontinence & OAB: CME Learning Center”