Health Changes & Problems
Constipation - If you’re suffering from constipation, then this can put stress and pressure on your bladder and your pelvic floor muscles. In severe cases of acute constipation, temporary incontinence and leaking is possible but will usually disappear again. In cases of chronic constipation, however, the constant pressure can weaken pelvic floor muscles and urethral sphincters, causing you to develop a permanent form of stress incontinence.
Infection - Urinary tract infections (UTIs) and bladder infections (cystitis) can be the cause for temporary incontinence. This will usually go away again as the infection disappears.
Medication - Certain medicines can cause temporary bladder problems that usually stop when you stop taking the medicine. A good example are diuretics, or water pills as they are called. They are used to treat heart failure and certain kidney diseases and can lead to incontinence as they drain water from the body. Other medication that is used to treat bladder issues might stop you from being able to pee properly. It’s best to seek advice from your healthcare professional if this is the case.
Obstruction - A blockage in the urinary tract, for example, from a tumour or a urinary stone, can cause you to not be able to pee. This can lead to various health problems, including infections as the urine backs up into the kidneys or overflow incontinence, depending on where exactly the obstruction is.
Age - Often, as we get older, our muscles weaken and not everything works as it should anymore. This also holds true for our bladder. When the pelvic floor and sphincter muscles weaken incontinence can develop. This doesn’t happen from one day to the next, however, but is more of a slow, gradual process.
Chronic Cough - A chronic or long-lasting cough can be the cause for incontinence. As the coughing puts strain on the pelvic floor and sphincter muscles, these can get weakened over time. Ultimately, you won’t be able to hold urine inside the body anymore.
Nervous System - Problems with the nervous system, whether these are congenital or caused by trauma or injury, are a common cause for bladder problems. With nerve related conditions, the communication between the brain and the urinary tract is disrupted, leading to the urinary tract not being able to do its job properly. This is also called a neurogenic bladder.
Food & Drink - Certain foods, especially those that cause constipation, will put you at higher risk of developing temporary incontinence. Same goes for your drink of choice. Alcoholic, caffeinated, or carbonated beverages are known to irritate the bladder and can lead to bladder problems.
Obesity - Being overweight puts constant pressure on the bladder and the surrounding muscles. Over time, this will weaken the bladder and it won’t be able to hold as much urine, meaning you will have to make more trips to the toilet or, worse case, you will develop a form of incontinence.
Caffeine - Caffeine-based products are known to have the same effect as diuretics. Whether it’s a coffee, an energy drink, or certain medication – the caffeine will irritate the bladder and, especially if you’re prone to it, can make you leak.
Certain life events and health problems in women can weaken the pelvic floor muscles, leading to stress incontinence. These are:
- Trauma or injury (e.g. due to sexual assault)
- Pregnancy & vaginal childbirth
- Cystocele and pelvic organ prolapse
- Pelvic surgery
Prostate problems in men can be a cause for bladder problems. All men have a prostate gland that surrounds the bladder neck a little bit like a donut. As the man gets older, the prostate gets bigger and men might start to experience problems with starting to urinate, a slow urine stream, spraying, or being able to empty the bladder fully.
One cause behind this can be benign prostatic hypoplasia, which is a non-malignant enlargement of the prostate. This is actually very common and can be treated quite easily. Prostate cancer, on the other hand, can also be a cause for short-term and long-term bladder issues. A cancerous growth that can damage or block the urinary tract, radiation therapy, surgery, and other cancer treatments can all lead to nerve damage, bladder spasms or stress incontinence. Although the cancer might be untreatable in some cases, bladder problems caused by it can get better over time, depending on the cause for the problem.
When to seek help
By causing embarrassment, bladder problems can have a severe impact on your self-esteem and quality of life. So, if you’re trying to avoid leaving the house because you’re worried about your bladder, you should seek help. Your doctor will be able to help you manage your bladder problems and increase your quality of life.
If you have prolonged symptoms of a bladder problem such as trouble urinating, a loss of bladder control, waking to use the bathroom more than twice, pelvic pain, leaking of urine, or if you pee considerably more than 4-6 times a day, it may be time to book an appointment with your GP. These things are not normal and should be investigated by a trusted healthcare professional. If you spot blood in your urine, then please go see a doctor immediately as this is considered an emergency that requires quick treatment.