Causes of Urinary Incontinence in Men and Women

Incontinence affects both men and women, and it can develop to a variety of reasons. Some of the risk factors for developing incontinence are the same for both men and women. For example, aging, obesity and diabetes are all risk factors that can affect males and females.

In some instances, incontinence develops due to the weakening of the bladder muscles. Certain neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and strokes may also cause incontinence. But in other cases, the causes of incontinence are gender specific. Understanding the cause of incontinence can help your doctor determine the most appropriate treatment. 

Female Causes of Incontinence

Women have an increased risk of developing incontinence due to several additional factors.

Pregnancy: Women are at higher risk for incontinence due to pregnancy and childbirth. The increased weight of the uterus and hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy can lead to stress incontinence. Subsequent pregnancies often increase the risk. 

Childbirth: Having a vaginal childbirth can also weaken the muscles that support the bladder. In some cases, nerves are damaged that effect bladder control.

Hysterectomy: A hysterectomy is surgical removal of the uterus. Although most hysterectomies are performed without complications, damage to the pelvic floor muscles can occur. When the pelvic floor muscles are damaged, it can lead to poor bladder control.  

Male Causes of Incontinence

Some people may be surprised to find out that incontinence does not only affect women. Women are more likely to develop the problem partly due to pregnancy and childbirth. But incontinence is not only a woman’s health issue. It is estimated that 25 million people in the United States have incontinence and five million of those are men.

According to the National Association for Continence, anywhere from two to 15 percent of men between age 15 and 63 have incontinence. In addition to neurological conditions and injuries of the spinal cord, there are a few other causes of incontinence in men.

Treatment for prostate cancer: Prostate cancer itself does not necessarily cause incontinence. But treatment for the cancer including radiation therapy and surgery can lead to urine leakage in some men. Treatment may interfere with the bladder’s capacity to hold urine. Radiation therapy can lead to muscle spasms that push urine out. Certain treatment, such as surgery, can damage the nerves that control the bladder. But newer procedures continue to be developed, which allow normal bladder function as much as possible.

Enlarged Prostate: Many men develop an enlarged prostate as they age, which is referred to as benign prostatic hyperplasia. Although the condition is not serious, it can lead to incontinence.