10 Surprising Facts About Urinary Incontinence

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Sarah Lewis, PharmD on September 1, 2020
  • Portrait of diverse crowd in huddle
    1. Urinary incontinence affects millions of people.
    Urinary incontinence is leakage of urine you can’t control. People may refer to it as loss of bladder control. No matter what you call it, if you have it, you may feel like you’re the only one because people don’t really talk about it. But you’re not alone. Up to 33% of adults in the United States suffer from urinary incontinence—that’s millions of Americans.
  • Happy couple smiling on beach
    2. Urinary incontinence affects both men and women.
    Many people think of urinary incontinence as a woman’s problem. The truth is it affects both men and women. However, it’s twice as common in women compared to men. Men and women tend to have different types of urinary incontinence because the main causes differ. But anyone who lives with urinary incontinence knows the distress and embarrassment it can cause.
  • Senior women laughing outdoors
    3. Urinary incontinence is not a normal part of aging.
    The prevalence of urinary incontinence increases with age, but it isn’t a normal part of aging. Instead, some of the physical changes of aging increase the risk of developing urinary incontinence. For women, this includes menopause. For men, it’s prostate problems. For everyone, age-related changes, such as weight gain and constipation can contribute. Let your doctor know if you’re experiencing urine leakage so you can find the cause and take steps to manage it.
  • Man supporting wife giving birth in hospital
    4. Urinary incontinence with pregnancy and childbirth is usually temporary.
    Pregnancy and vaginal childbirth put tremendous pressure on pelvic tissues, including the bladder, urethra, nerves, and pelvic floor muscles. It’s common for women to leak urine during pregnancy and for a short time after delivery. Pelvic tissues need time to heal and the problem usually resolves. Women who still have problems after six weeks should talk with their doctor to determine if there is more extensive damage causing incontinence.
  • Prostate enlargement
    5. Urinary incontinence is a symptom of another problem.
    Leaking urine is a sign there’s a problem somewhere along the urinary tract, such as nerve damage, muscle weakness, blockages, or infection. For women, the problem is frequently related to weak muscles and pelvic tissues. In men, BPH (benign prostatic hyperplasia) is a common cause of incontinence. For both men and women, medical conditions, such as stroke, diabetes, and multiple sclerosis, can cause urinary incontinence. Finding the underlying cause is the first step to controlling it.
  • Doctor Talking to Man in Office
    6. Urinary incontinence is more than just a bother.
    For many people, urinary incontinence starts as a small problem, but it typically doesn’t stay that way. It tends to gradually worsen with time. Regular leakage of urine leads to skin problems in the area and increases the risk of repeated urinary tract infections. It can also put stress on your social, work and personal relationships. So don’t put off talking with your doctor and finding relief from your incontinence.
  • A restroom sign for female, male, and the physically challenged.
    7. Lifestyle changes may help improve continence.
    Lifestyle changes are an important part of improving incontinence. Bladder training can help you regain control by timing your bathroom breaks and working up to longer intervals. Watching your fluid intake and limiting caffeine and alcohol are other strategies. Maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking, and avoiding constipation and heavy lifting will also help.
  • Pain or cramps in stomach
    8. Exercises may improve urinary control.
    Kegel exercises go hand-in-hand with bladder training for getting incontinence under control. Women are often familiar with these exercises, but they can benefit men as well. Kegel exercises involve strengthening the pelvic muscles that hold urine in the bladder. You can find these muscles by practicing stopping urine midstream or holding in gas. Once you know how to squeeze them, you can make them stronger. As with any muscle, it may take several weeks of exercising before you see improvement.
  • Hispanic man examining prescription bottle in kitchen
    9. Medications to treat urinary incontinence are available.
    Some types of urinary incontinence will respond to medications. Medications work in different ways to control urine leakage. Some relax bladder muscles to prevent bladder spasms. Others block abnormal nerve signals to the bladder. There are also medications that slow urine production. For men, medicines to treat BPH can help. Devices, such as pessaries, can help women regain urinary control.
  • Doctor and senior patient talking in hospital room
    10. Surgery is an option for urinary incontinence.
    If other treatments fail to improve urinary control, surgery may be an option. There are different surgeries for men and women depending on the cause of incontinence. In general, urinary incontinence surgery is very successful. With the right procedure, success rates can be as high as 90%. The key is finding a doctor with plenty of experience treating your type of incontinence to guide your treatment decisions.
10 Surprising Facts About Urinary Incontinence

About The Author

Sarah Lewis is a pharmacist and a medical writer with over 25 years of experience in various areas of pharmacy practice. Sarah holds a Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy degree from West Virginia University and a Doctor of Pharmacy degree from Massachusetts College of Pharmacy. She completed Pharmacy Practice Residency training at the University of Pittsburgh/VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System. 
  1. Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH): Minimally Invasive Surgeries. American Urological Association. http://www.urologyhealth.org/urologic-conditions/benign-prostatic-hyperplasia-(bph)/treatment/minima... 
  2. Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH): Surgery. American Urological Association. http://www.urologyhealth.org/urologic-conditions/benign-prostatic-hyperplasia-(bph)/treatment/surger... 
  3. Herschorn S, Bruschini H, Comiter C, Grise P, Hanus T, et al. Surgical treatment of stress incontinence in men. Neurourol Urodyn. 2010;29(1):179-90.
  4. Managing Incontinence for Men With Cancer. American Cancer Society. http://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatmentsandsideeffects/physicalsideeffects/managing-incontinence-f... 
  5. Urinary Incontinence. American Academy of Family Physicians. http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/urinary-incontinence.html
  6. Urinary Incontinence. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/urinary-incontinence/basics/definition/con-20037883 
  7. Urinary Incontinence. National Institute on Aging. http://www.nia.nih.gov/health/publication/urinary-incontinence 
  8. Urinary Incontinence Clinical Presentation. Medscape. http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/452289-clinical 
  9. Urinary Incontinence Fact Sheet. Office on Women’s Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/urinary-incontinence.html 
  10. Urinary Incontinence in Men. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/urologic-disease/urinary-incontinence-in-m... 
  11. What Is Urinary Incontinence? American Urological Association. http://www.urologyhealth.org/urologic-conditions/urinary-incontinence 
Was this helpful?
Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Sep 1
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.