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Urinary incontinence means that your urine leaks out at times when you are not using the bathroom. This is a common problem for women of all ages. Although urinary incontinence isn’t life threatening, it can affect your quality of life.
Some things make it more likely that you will have urinary incontinence. These things are called risk factors. You can control some of your risk factors. But others are beyond your control. Learn about the risks you may have by taking this assessment.
You told us that you are . In general, incontinence is more common in older women, but it can happen at any age. Stress incontinence is more common in women younger than 50. Urge and mixed incontinence are more common in women older than 65. Although the risk for urinary incontinence rises with age, it’s not an inevitable part of aging.
You told us that you are Caucasian. Several studies have found that Caucasian women have about a 2-fold higher risk of all types of incontinence compared with African-American and Asian women.
You told us that you have a mother, sister, or daughter (first-degree relative) with urinary incontinence. This makes it 2 to 3 times more likely that you will develop stress incontinence.
You told us that you have given birth. Pregnancy and birth are risk factors for developing urinary incontinence. This is especially true for stress incontinence. Vaginal delivery raises your risk by about 2 times compared with a woman who hasn’t given birth. Pregnancy itself also adds a greater risk of developing urinary incontinence. Women who give birth by cesarean section have a slightly higher risk of developing urinary incontinence than women who haven’t given birth. This risk is not as high as for those who give birth vaginally. The first baby born raises the risk the most. Studies have not found that twins or other multiples pose a higher risk than a single birth. After age 65, the risk form pregnancy and birth becomes less important risk factor. This is because chronic illness affects incontinence more that birth history.
Some women have leakage during pregnancy. This temporary incontinence raises the risk for incontinence later in life.
Your weight and height show that you have a BMI > 25. Carrying extra pounds puts you at risk for stress urinary incontinence. This is especially true if your extra weight is around your belly. The good news is that losing just a few pounds can have a big impact on your risk. For example, going from 200 pounds to 190 pounds can cut your risk. Talk with your health care provider for help with losing weight.
You told us that you have diabetes. Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes can raise your risk for urge and mixed urinary incontinence. Keeping your diabetes under control lowers your risk. Talk with your health care provider if you need help managing your diabetes.
You told us you have a chronic cough or COPD. COPD stands for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. COPD and chronic cough are both important risk factors for stress urinary incontinence. This is probably because coughing put extra pressure on you belly. Talk with your health care provider to find out ways to control your chronic cough.
You told us you are smoker or have smoked in the past. Smoking may raise your risk for urinary incontinence, but researchers aren’t sure. One study showed that people who smoked heavily – more than 20 cigarettes a day – are at higher risk. Smoking does make it more likely to develop a chronic cough or COPD. Both of these are definite risk factors for stress urinary incontinence. Smoking is bad for your health in other ways. Talk with your health care provider about programs that can help you quit.
You told us that you have difficulty moving quickly. You may have a history of falls, pain because of arthritis in your legs, or difficulty standing from a sitting position. Problems or pain with movement can make urge incontinence worse. Talk with your health care provider about how you can improve your mobility or better control your pain.
You told us that you have taken or are taking pills for hormone therapy (HT). Taking the hormone estrogen or estrogen plus progestin pills for a least a year raises the risk of developing urinary incontinence. Talk with your care provider about the risks for urinary incontinence tied to HT.
In addition to the above risk factors, many foods and drugs may also raise your risk of developing urinary incontinence or make an incontinence problem worse. These include caffeinated beverages like soda, tea, and coffee, and prescribed water pills (diuretics). Anticholinergic drugs may raise the risk because they may keep the bladder from emptying completely. They may also cause constipation. ACE inhibitors may bring on stress urinary incontinence by causing a cough. If you are taking these medicines, talk with your health care provider about their effect on incontinence.
This assessment is not intended to replace the evaluation of a health care professional.
Online Medical Reviewer:
Finke, Amy, RN, BSN
Online Medical Reviewer:
Greenstein, Marc, DO
Date Last Reviewed: