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Urinary incontinence

Urinary incontinence (UI) is loss of bladder control. Symptoms can range from mild leaking of urine to uncontrollable wetting. UI is more common as people age, but treatment can be very effective at any age.

In men, UI can result from prostate problems or nerve damage due to disease or injury. Consider these facts about UI:

  • Men who have had diabetes for many years may develop nerve damage that affects bladder control.
  • Stroke, Parkinson's disease, and multiple sclerosis all affect the brain and nervous system, so they can also cause UI.
  • The bladder may squeeze at the wrong time, a condition called overactive bladder. This may be caused by nerve problems, or it may occur without any clear cause. Symptoms of overactive bladder include:
    • Urinary frequency — urination eight or more times a day or two or more times at night
    • Urinary urgency — the sudden, strong need to urinate immediately
    • Urge incontinence — urine leakage that follows a sudden, strong urge to urinate
  • Spinal cord injury can cause UI by interrupting the nerve signals needed for bladder control.
  • In neural birth defects such as spina bifida, the backbone and spinal canal do not close before birth. In severe cases, nerve damage can affect bladder control.

If you have any urination problems, talk to a doctor. Treatment depends on the type of problem you have and what best fits your lifestyle. It may include simple exercises, medicines, special devices prescribed by your doctor, or surgery.

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Content last updated: January 10, 2011.

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