Urinary incontinence is the inability to hold urine inside the bladder voluntarily or to prevent leakage or dribbling.
Urine is stored in the bladder until it is eliminated from the body through a tube called the urethra. Urine flow and leakage are normally controlled by sphincter muscles, which tighten and close around the neck of the bladder and urethra.
When urination begins, bladder muscles contract to squeeze urine out of the bladder and sphincter muscles relax to allow the urine to pass. When urination is completed, the bladder relaxes and the sphincter contracts.
Incontinence affects an estimated 17 million Americans of all ages, although it is more common in women and older adults.
Embarrassment prevents many people from seeking treatment. However, incontinence is a common medical condition and effective treatment is available in the majority of cases.
Stress incontinence is the most common form of incontinence. It occurs when the internal sphincter muscles do not close completely around the bladder neck. Activities such as coughing, sneezing, laughing, or lifting heavy objects apply pressure to a full bladder and cause urine to leak.
Women are more prone to stress incontinence during pregnancy, childbirth, and menopause. Prostate surgery and radiation treatment are the primary causes of stress incontinence in men.
Urge incontinence occurs when an overactive bladder contracts involuntarily and causes urine to leak, sometimes in large amounts. Bladder or prostate infection, bladder cancer, or stone disease can irritate the bladder lining and trigger overactivity.
Neurological conditions such as spinal cord injury, stroke, Parkinson's disease, or multiple sclerosis affect communication between the brain and bladder and cause the bladder to contract inappropriately.
Overflow incontinence occurs when the bladder is allowed to become so full that it simply overflows. When bladder nerves are damaged due to illness or injury, they may not recognize when the bladder is full.
Blockage or narrowing of the bladder outlet by cancer or scar tissue may prevent normal emptying of the bladder. Benign prostatic hyperplasia (an enlarged prostate) can also cause such blockage. For this reason, overflow incontinence is more common in men than in women.
The Department of Urology provides expert evaluation and treatment of all aspects of male and female urinary incontinence. A wide range of treatments is available, including bladder retraining, exercises, biofeedback, medication, and corrective surgery.
Members of the Neurorology and Urinary Incontinence Programs at UPMC are world leaders in the exploration of new and innovative therapies for all types of urinary incontinence.
Exciting research in stress incontinence is under way, in which a patient's own muscle stem cells are used to strengthen the sphincter. The stimulation of the sacral nerve (which controls bladder function) is being evaluated for refractory urinary incontinence.
The Department of Urology is also involved in the evaluation of new drugs under FDA investigation for incontinence treatment.
For patient referral or consultations, contact the Department of Urology at 412-692-4100.
Affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
Supplemental content provided by
A.D.A.M. Health Solutions. All rights reserved.
For help in finding a doctor or health service that suits your needs, call the UPMC Referral Service at 412-647-UPMC (8762) or 1-800-533-UPMC (8762). Select option 1.
UPMC is an equal opportunity employer. UPMC policy prohibits discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, sex, genetics, sexual orientation, marital status, familial status, disability, veteran status, or any other legally protected group status. Further, UPMC will continue to support and promote equal employment opportunity, human dignity, and racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity. This policy applies to admissions, employment, and access to and treatment in UPMC programs and activities. This commitment is made by UPMC in accordance with federal, state, and/or local laws and regulations.
Medical information made available on UPMC.com is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely entirely on this information for your health care needs. Ask your own doctor or health care provider any specific medical questions that you have. Further, UPMC.com is not a tool to be used in the case of an emergency. If an emergency arises, you should seek appropriate emergency medical services.
For UPMC Mercy Patients: As a Catholic hospital, UPMC Mercy abides by the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, as determined by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. As such, UPMC Mercy neither endorses nor provides medical practices and/or procedures that contradict the moral teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.
Pittsburgh, PA, USA UPMC.com