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Urinary incontinence

What is urinary incontinence?

Urinary incontinence is when you lose the ability to control your bladder. You may have urinary incontinence if you find yourself leaking urine (pee) with a simple cough or sneeze, or not being able to make it to the bathroom in time.

Urinary incontinence is sometimes called “frequent urination” or “overactive bladder.” However, treatment can bring relief.

There are three main types of urinary incontinence:

  • Stress incontinence. Other organs put pressure on your bladder and force out urine when you cough, sneeze, laugh, or exercise. Even lifting something can cause muscles to contract and leaking to occur.
  • Prolapsed bladder. Mostly seen in women. Because they are next to the vagina, the muscles surrounding the bladder are often weakened due to aging and childbirth. Over time, the bladder can drop (prolapse) into the vagina, causing the bladder to leak.
  • Overactive bladder. An overactive bladder is when you have a strong, sometimes uncontrollable urge to urinate (pee). These urges can be managed through lifestyle changes or medicine.


The symptoms of urinary incontinence include any kind of leaking from the bladder that is beyond your control, whether small and unnoticeable to total emptying of the bladder.

When to see a doctor

You should call your doctor if you have any of the symptoms mentioned above.


Certain activities, medicines, or foods may make your incontinence worse, including:

  • Drinks with caffeine or bubbles (carbonation), such as coffee, tea, and soda
  • Alcohol
  • Spicy food

Other causes include:

Diagnosis and tests

To diagnose urinary incontinence, your healthcare provider will ask you about your personal and family health history. You may have a urine test and be asked to keep a record of your bladder activity. In some cases, additional diagnostic tests may be required.


Your healthcare provider will prescribe the best treatment for your condition. Treatment options include:

  • Bladder and pelvic floor exercises. These are simple exercises to strengthen your pelvic floor and bladder muscles.
  • Voiding exercises. Your healthcare provider will help you learn techniques to help you to empty your bladder completely. This can help prevent accidents.
  • Diet changes. Your healthcare provider may recommend changes to your diet to help ease your urges.
  • Medicines. You may be prescribed medicine to help to relax or restore muscle strength, increasing your ability to control your bladder.
  • Medical devices. Small devices may be placed into your urethra or vagina to help prevent leakage. There are other devices as well to help with incontinence like Interstim.
  • Surgery. In some cases, surgery may be recommended to fix a prolapsed bladder or treat the underlying health condition that is causing urinary incontinence.
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Intermountain provides advanced urological care for conditions relating to male and female urinary tracts, and male reproductive tract

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