Urinary incontinence is a health condition where you can’t control when you urinate (pee), either once in a while or all the time. It’s a common health condition that affects people of all ages, but you’re more likely to have it as you get older. Incontinence happens more often in women — almost half of all women will experience incontinence at some point in their lives.
Normally, your bladder muscles are relaxed and hold urine in. When you need to urinate, your bladder muscles contract and the muscles that hold your bladder closed become open as you push urine out through your urethra (the tube where urine leaves your body). With incontinence, this process doesn’t work the right way.
If you have incontinence, you may feel embarrassed and limit your social activities. It can also interrupt your sleep, cause problems at work and create hygiene issues. It can also put you at risk for a fall if you’re rushing to get to a bathroom.
There are several different types of incontinence. Stress incontinence (when pressure on your bladder causes urine leakage) and urge incontinence (when you have a sudden intense need to urinate) are two of the most common types.
Women are more likely to have incontinence than men, since pregnancy, childbirth and menopause increase the risk. However, men who have prostate health problems may also experience incontinence.
You may want to see a primary care physician, urologist (urinary tract doctor) or gynecologist (women’s reproductive health doctor) to check if you have incontinence. Based on your medical history and a physical exam, your provider may order additional tests to help identify your type of incontinence.
Many treatment options can help you get incontinence under control. Your provider may recommend lifestyle changes, pelvic floor exercises, medications , medical devices or surgery.
Living with incontinence can affect your overall well-being. If you follow your provider’s plan, prioritize self-care and practice stress management techniques, it can help you keep a positive mindset. You may also want to ask your provider about joining a support group.
These organizations can provide more information and assistance:
Don’t hesitate to seek help for incontinence. Many people don’t seek treatment because they are ashamed or embarrassed, or they don’t think there’s anything that will help. Reach out to a health care provider who specializes in incontinence at Banner Health to help get your symptoms under control.