Incontinence is an indication that the bladder is not functioning properly. It is often caused by weakness of the muscles of the pelvic floor, but may also be due to damage to the nerves in the region.
Stress incontinence is often a consequence of the muscles that control urination being damaged during the course of childbirth, and may affect up to a third of all women who have given birth. With the reduction of control of these muscles, urinary leakage occurs during periods of abdominal pressure (e.g. coughing, sneezing) . Being overweight may also cause stress incontinence.
Incontinence is more common in women than men, and becomes more prevalent with age. In older women, declining oestrogen levels may contribute to incontinence.
Prostate problems are a frequent cause of incontinence in men, and in some cases, it can also occur as an adverse effect of prostate surgery.
Nervous system problems (such as stroke, Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis), may also lead to incontinence, while functional incontinence is associated with physical and mental disability.
Causes of temporary incontinence may include urinary tract infections, constipation, alcohol, drinking too much or too little fluid, and the use of some medicines (e.g. sleeping tablets, diuretics). Some women also become temporarily incontinent during pregnancy.