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Urge incontinence: Causes, Symptoms & Treatments

Incontinence patient shaking hand with a doctor

When your body decides it must go, you better find a bathroom, and find one fast! For people suffering from urge incontinence, the sensation of having to urinate comes on so suddenly and so strong that they are often barely able to hold in urine and are rarely left with enough warning to find a bathroom.

What is Urge Incontinence?

What Causes Urge Incontinence?

The causes of urge urinary incontinence can vary, as the condition is often a symptom of a larger issue. The most common causes of urge incontinence in women are:

  • Bladder or urinary tract infection (UTI)
  • Inflammation
  • Bladder obstruction
  • Bladder stones
  • Nerve damage caused by a caesarian section (C-section) from childbirth
  • Multiple sclerosis or Parkinson's disease
  • Diabetes
  • Stroke
  • Previous injury or pelvic surgery

In other cases, the cause of urge incontinence in women can’t be identified. Whatever the case may be, it is important to know that you are not alone in experiencing this condition.

What's the Difference Between Urge and Stress Incontinence?

Stress and urge incontinence are the two most common types of urinary incontinence in women. Here's a brief breakdown of urge incontinence vs. stress incontinence:

Stress incontinence is due to increased abdominal pressure (or stress) on the pelvic muscles and bladder—often caused by a weakened bladder and pelvic floor muscles. The loss of bladder control and bladder leaks are often triggered by coughing, sneezing or exercising.

Urge incontinence or an overactive bladder is due to the involuntary contraction of the bladder muscles, creating an urge to urinate and bladder leakage from not making it to the bathroom in time.

If you experience bladder leaks with both stress and urge incontinence symptoms, you may have mixed incontinence.

Another type of urinary incontinence is overflow incontinence, which is caused by a blockage of the urethra and prohibits the bladder from emptying properly.

Managing & Treating Urge Incontinence

Urge incontinence can have an outsider effect on quality of life. People with urge incontinence sometimes restructure their whole lives around their bathroom needs, limiting their work and social lives to places that have easy bathroom access. They may even stop going out altogether. With a little management, this need not be the case.

Here are some lifestyle changes and treatment options to help you remedy the symptoms of urge incontinence:

Bladder Training

Going to the bathroom on a regular schedule, such as every two hours or so, can help get your bladder on a routine. Go to the bathroom whether or not you feel like you have to, so you can prevent your bladder from filling up too much and improve your ability to hold urine longer.

Stay Hydrated

Drinking plenty of water throughout the day will keep your urine from becoming concentrated and acidic. Overly acidic urine can irritate your bladder nerves and tissues, making your urge incontinence symptoms worse.

Don’t Sip

Drink a small glass of water—about 6 to 8 ounces—all at once instead of sipping throughout the day, which might create the urge to go to the bathroom more often.

Double Void

Often times, people with urge incontinence may not empty their bladder all the way when they urinate. Use the double void technique to prevent this and to avoid future ‘pee emergencies.’ After you’ve urinated, remain on the toilet for 30 seconds, and urinate again. This way, you won’t feel an urgent need to go just a short time after visiting the restroom.

Talk About It!

Reach out to those close to you—your partner, your friend, your daughter. Having someone on your side who cares about you and loves you is very powerful. Not only are your loved ones great for emotional support, you also gain a resource in managing urge incontinence who may be able to help navigate your unique bathroom needs.

It may even be helpful to share this article with your loved ones so that they can better understand urinary incontinence and how it may create the need to urinate often, impacting your personal and social life.

Talk to Your Doctor

If you’re not seeing results from behavioral remedies, you may want to consult your doctor about your medical options for urge incontinence treatment.

It may help to keep a journal of your symptoms, noting when you feel the urge to urinate and if certain activities trigger the urge to pee. Discuss your medical history and discuss any of the risk factors listed above that may apply to you.

The more details you can provide to your doctor, the better equipped he or she can be to provide lifestyle changes and treatment options for your condition.

Incontinence Liners, Pads or Underwear for Urge Incontinence

Wear incontinence liners, pads or underwear if you’re worried about bladder leaks. They absorb wetness to keep you feeling comfortable and confident. ALWAYS DISCREEET's urinary incontinence products aren’t bulky and absorb leaks and odors within seconds, so no one even needs to know you’re wearing anything. With the right protection, you will feel empowered to confidently partake in the activities you love.