Understanding Urinary Incontinence

Causes of Overactive Bladder

Erica Sanderson Jan 30th, 2014 (updated Nov 19th, 2014)
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Aging
Aging

Not everyone who is older will have incontinence. However, many older people develop it because of certain factors. As we age, the bladder loses its elasticity, so its capacity to hold urine is reduced. Older people have weaker bladders. They can’t push out all the urine, leaving residual urine in the bladder. Also, the kidneys can’t condense urine as well, causing frequent urination.

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Menopause
Menopause

Menopause decreases estrogen levels. Estrogen is a key factor in maintaining strength with pelvic floor muscles. When these muscles become weak, the organs in the pelvic region may drop, affecting the “tight seal” around the urethra.

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Kidney stones
Kidney stones

When a small stone is lodged inside the ureter — a tube that connects the kidneys to the bladder — it can be a source of overactive bladder.  Sometimes people don’t realize they have these kidney stones because there may be no pain associated with it.

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Obesity
Obesity

Added weight causes stress and strain on the pelvic floor and muscles that can disrupt normal urinary functions. If you’re overweight, talk to your doctor about adapting a healthy weight-loss plan.

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Pregnancy/childbirth
Pregnancy/childbirth

Carrying a baby puts major pressure on pelvic floor muscles, weakening them. Women experience frequent urination because of the baby’s weight on their bladder.



Childbirth can worsen symptoms. Long-term damage may result from the baby exiting the birth canal because of tearing, straining the pelvic floor while pushing, and complications from episiotomies (although this procedure is no longer recommended).

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Diabetes
Diabetes

Diabetes can eventually lead to nerve damage — known as diabetic neuropathy — in different areas, including the bladder. A person can’t feel when their bladder is empty (leading to several bathroom trips), or they can’t feel they have to go until it’s too late.

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Prostate
Prostate

As men age, they acquire enlarged prostate (BPH), making it harder for the bladder to completely empty.

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Caffeine
Caffeine

A diuretic, caffeine triggers the kidneys to extract extra fluid from body tissue. The extra fluid is then funneled into your bladder, causing more fluid to build up faster. Caffeine is also a bladder irritant, forcing it to empty more often.