Urinary incontinence — the loss of bladder control — is a common and often embarrassing problem. The severity ranges from occasionally leaking urine when you cough or sneeze to having an urge to urinate that's so sudden and strong you don't get to a toilet in time.

Though it occurs more often as people get older, urinary incontinence isn't an inevitable consequence of aging. If urinary incontinence affects your daily activities, don't hesitate to see your doctor. For most people, simple lifestyle and dietary changes or medical care can treat symptoms of urinary incontinence.

Many people experience occasional, minor leaks of urine. Others may lose small to moderate amounts of urine more frequently.
Types of urinary incontinence include:

When to see a doctor
You may feel uncomfortable discussing incontinence with your doctor. But if incontinence is frequent or is affecting your quality of life, it's important to seek medical advice because urinary incontinence may:

Female urinary systemOpen pop-up dialog box

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Urinary incontinence can be caused by everyday habits, underlying medical conditions or physical problems. A thorough evaluation by your doctor can help determine what's behind your incontinence.

Temporary urinary incontinence
Certain drinks, foods and medications may act as diuretics — stimulating your bladder and increasing your volume of urine. They include:

Urinary incontinence may also be caused by an easily treatable medical condition, such as:

Persistent urinary incontinence
Urinary incontinence can also be a persistent condition caused by underlying physical problems or changes, including:

Risk factors
Factors that increase your risk of developing urinary incontinence include:

Complications of chronic urinary incontinence include:

Urinary incontinence isn't always preventable. However, to help decrease your risk:

It's important to determine the type of urinary incontinence that you have, and your symptoms often tell your doctor which type you have. That information will guide treatment decisions.
Your doctor is likely to start with a thorough history and physical exam. You may then be asked to do a simple maneuver that can demonstrate incontinence, such as coughing.
After that, your doctor will likely recommend:

If further information is needed, your doctor may recommend more-involved tests, such as urodynamic testing and pelvic ultrasound. These tests are usually done if you're considering surgery.
Treatment for urinary incontinence depends on the type of incontinence, its severity and the underlying cause. A combination of treatments may be needed. If an underlying condition is causing your symptoms, your doctor will first treat that condition.
Your doctor may recommend less invasive treatments to start with and move on to other options if these techniques fail to help you.

Behavioral techniques
Your doctor may recommend:

Pelvic floor muscle exercises

 Female pelvic floor musclesOpen pop-up dialog box
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Your doctor may recommend that you do these exercises frequently to strengthen the muscles that help control urination. Also known as Kegel exercises, these techniques are especially effective for stress incontinence but may also help urge incontinence.
To do pelvic floor muscle exercises, imagine that you're trying to stop your urine flow. Then:

To help you identify and contract the right muscles, your doctor may suggest that you work with a pelvic floor physical therapist or try biofeedback techniques.
Medications commonly used to treat incontinence include:

Electrical stimulation
Electrodes are temporarily inserted into your rectum or vagina to stimulate and strengthen pelvic floor muscles. Gentle electrical stimulation can be effective for stress incontinence and urge incontinence, but you may need multiple treatments over several months.
Medical devices
Pessary typesOpen pop-up dialog box
Devices designed to treat women with incontinence include:

Interventional therapies

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Interventional therapies that may help with incontinence include:

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If other treatments aren't working, several surgical procedures can treat the problems that cause urinary incontinence:

Absorbent pads and catheters
If medical treatments can't eliminate your incontinence, you can try products that help ease the discomfort and inconvenience of leaking urine:

Lifestyle and home remedies
Problems with urine leakage may require you to take extra care to prevent skin irritation:

If you have urge incontinence or nighttime incontinence, make the toilet more convenient:

If you have functional incontinence, you might:

Alternative medicine
There are no alternative medicine therapies that have been proved to cure urinary incontinence. Early studies have shown that acupuncture can provide some benefit. Yoga also may provide some benefit for urinary incontinence, but more study is needed.

Coping and support
If you're embarrassed about a bladder control problem, you may try to cope on your own by wearing absorbent pads, carrying extra clothes or even avoiding going out.
But effective treatments are available for urinary incontinence. It's important to ask your doctor about treatment. Once you do, you'll be on your way to regaining an active and confident life.

Preparing for your appointment
If you have urinary incontinence, you're likely to start by seeing your primary care doctor. You may be referred to a doctor who specializes in urinary tract disorders (urologist) or a gynecologist with special training in female bladder problems and urinary function (urogynecologist).
What you can do
To get ready for your appointment, it helps to:

For urinary incontinence, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:

Don't hesitate to ask other questions during your appointment as they occur to you.
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor is likely to ask you a few questions, such as:

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