|Also Listed As:
Urinary incontinence is the inability to control urination. It affects more
than 13 million people of all ages in the United States. It is more common in
the elderly and women.
Incontinence is classified as either stress incontinence (caused by coughing,
laughing, sneezing), urge incontinence (losing urine when suddenly feeling the
urge to urinate), overflow incontinence (continually leaking urine), functional
incontinence (in people with a brain injury), or transient incontinence
(temporary incontinence). Treatment is highly effective in more than 80 percent
of cases. Exercise and behavioral therapies are most successful.
|Signs and Symptoms|
- Not being able to hold your urine until you get to a
- Frequent and unusual urges to
|What Causes It?|
- Stretched pelvic muscles from pregnancy and childbirth
- Low estrogen levels in women
- Enlarged prostate in men
- Side effects of certain medications
- Urinary tract infections (UTIs)
- Frequent constipation
- Damage to or diseases of the brain or spinal cord (for example,
dementia, spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis, stroke)
- Weakened muscles that control urination (urethral sphincter and
|What to Expect at Your Provider's Office|
Your health care provider will give you a physical examination and may ask
you some questions about your past prostate problems, pregnancy, hysterectomy,
your pattern of urinating, when your urine leakage occurs, and whether you
strain or experience discomfort when you urinate. You may be asked to cough
vigorously to see if it causes urine loss, a sign of stress incontinence.
Your provider may suggest urine tests to detect infection, urinary stones,
diabetes, and other underlying causes. A pelvic ultrasound may be performed to
examine your bladder, kidneys, and urethra.
- Exercises: Kegel exercises strengthen muscles that control urination.
While increased muscle tone requires long-term exercise, squeezing the muscles
just before coughing or sneezing provides initial relief.
- Biofeedback: Electronic devices inserted into the vagina or rectum
aid in muscle identification for exercise therapy.
- Relaxation techniques may help you go longer without
- Habit training helps establish regularity of
Several types of drugs are available to help muscle control. Surgery is also
helpful, particularly in women with stress incontinence and for men with an
enlarged prostate. Various other options exist as well, such as catheters,
urethral plugs, condom catheters, and absorbent pads or underwear.
|Complementary and Alternative Therapies|
Alternative therapies mainly involve Kegel exercises, biofeedback, and
preventing any conditions that worsen incontinence. Yoga may help as
- Eliminate caffeine, alcohol, sweetener substitutes, simple
- Cranberries and blueberries contain substances that keep bacteria
from adhering to the bladder. This may help prevent infections that can make
incontinence worse, and helps deodorize urine.
- Vitamin C (1,000 mg three times a day) keeps bacteria from growing in
- Beta-carotene (25,000 to 50,000 IU per day) helps your immune system
function properly and keeps mucous membranes healthy.
- Zinc (30 mg per day) supports immune function.
- Calcium (1,000 mg per day) and magnesium (500 mg per day) taken
together may improve control of the muscles used in
Herbs may be used as dried extracts (capsules, powders, teas), glycerites
(glycerine extracts), or tinctures (alcohol extracts). Teas should be made with
1 tsp. herb per cup of hot water. Steep covered 5 to 10 minutes for leaf or
flowers, 10 to 20 minutes for roots. Drink 2 to 4 cups per day.
Urinary astringents tone and heal the urinary tract and can be taken
long-term at 1 cup per day or 30 drops tincture per day.
- Horsetail (Equisetum arvense) helps connective tissue
- Plantain (Plantago major) is an astringent and
Marshmallow root (Althaea officinalis) is a urinary demulcent,
best used alone in a cold infusion. Soak 1 heaping tbsp. of marshmallow root in
1 qt. of cold water overnight. Strain and drink during the day in addition to
Some of the most common remedies used for urinary incontinence are listed
below. Usually, the dose is 3 to 5 pellets of a 12X to 30C remedy every one to
four hours until your symptoms get better.
- Causticum for stress incontinence, especially with
retention from holding the urine and frequent urges to urinate
- Natrum muriaticum for stress incontinence, vaginal
dryness and pain during sex, especially with a history of grief
- Pareira for retention of urine from an enlarged
- Sepia for stress incontinence with sudden urge to urinate,
especially with prolapsed uterus and vaginitis
- Zincum for stress incontinence, urinary retention from
prostate problems, unable to urinate
May help, depending on cause of the
Exercise and behavioral therapy are highly successful when closely adhered
to. You may need close monitoring by your health care provider and support from
someone close to you to stay committed to these lifestyle
If you are pregnant, consult with your provider before taking any medication.
For men, regular prostate examinations can detect problems
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|Review Date: August 1999|
|Reviewed By: Participants in the review process include: Dahlia Hirsch, MD, Center for
Holistic Healing, BelAir, MD; William Manahan, MD, University of Minnesota
Medical School, Family Practice and Community Health, Mankato, MN; Eric Wellons,
MD, Department of Surgery, Union Memorial Hospital, Baltimore,
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