You're not alone if you have urinary incontinence—when urine leaks unintentionally. About 13 million U.S. adults have the condition.
It's most common in women older than 50, but it affects men as well.
Learning about the problem can help you seek appropriate care, thus avoiding the embarrassment, rashes, sores, and urinary infections that can result if it's left untreated.
Several medical problems can cause incontinence:
The thinning and drying of women's skin in the vagina or urethra, especially after menopause.
Men's enlarged prostate glands.
Weakened pelvic muscles.
The side effects of certain medications.
Build-up of stool in the bowels.
Having a urinary-tract infection.
Having health conditions, such as diabetes or high calcium levels.
Kinds of incontinence
The two most common kinds of incontinence are stress incontinence and urge incontinence.
With stress incontinence, the urine leaks because of sudden pressure on your lower stomach muscles, such as when you cough, laugh, lift something, or exercise. It usually occurs when the pelvic muscles are weakened by childbirth or surgery.
With urge incontinence, the need to urinate comes on too fast—before you can get to a toilet. It can be a sign of an infection in the kidneys or bladder.
Various treatments are available, and the best treatment for you depends on what's causing the problem and which type of incontinence you have.
Stress incontinence can be treated with pelvic-muscle exercises called Kegel exercises. Devices that "block" the urethra so that urine won't leak out also are helpful. Surgery is an option in some cases.
If caused by a urinary tract infection, antibiotics will be prescribed. Urge incontinence is normally treated with medications, such as Ditropan (oxybutynin) or Detrol (tolterodine). Biofeedback or electrical stimulation to the nerves that control the bladder also can be tried.