Bladder weakness can be caused by everyday habits, underlying medical conditions or physical problems.
Temporary bladder weakness
Food and drink such as alcohol, caffeinated drinks, carbonated drinks and sparkling water, artificial sweeteners, chocolate, chili peppers, spicy foods, sugar or acid, especially citrus fruits may act as diuretics — stimulating your bladder and increasing your volume of urine. Medications such as heart and blood pressure medications, sedatives, muscle relaxants and large doses of vitamin C may affect you similarly.
Bladder weakness can also be caused by treatable medical conditions, such as urinary tract infections or constipation. Infections can irritate your bladder, causing strong urges to urinate and, sometimes, incontinence. The rectum is near the bladder and shares many of the same nerves. Hard, compacted stool in your rectum can cause these nerves to become overactive and increase urinary frequency.
Persistent (chronic) urinary incontinence
Bladder weakness can also be a chronic condition caused by underlying physical problems or changes, including:
- Pregnancy causes hormonal changes which together with the increased weight of the growing baby can lead to stress incontinence.
- Childbirth can damage the bladder nerves and the pelvic floor muscles which may be associated with incontinence.
- Changes with age can decrease the bladder’s capacity to store urine due to aging of the bladder muscle. Involuntary bladder contractions also increase in frequency as you get older.
- Menopause causes women to produce less oestrogen which helps keep the lining of the bladder and urethra healthy. These tissues can deteriorate and aggravate incontinence.
- An enlarged prostate gland, particularly in older men, can cause bladder weakness by reducing the flow of urine.
- Prostate cancer left untreated may cause stress incontinence or urge incontinence in men. More often though, bladder weakness is a side effect of treatment.
- Obstruction due to a tumour anywhere along your urinary tract can block the normal flow of urine, leading to overflow incontinence. Urinary stones can sometimes cause urine leakage.
- Neurological disorders such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, stroke, brain tumour or spinal injury can cause bladder weakness by interfering with nerve signals involved in bladder control.
- Women are more likely to have stress incontinence while men with prostate gland problems are at increased risk of urge and overflow incontinence.
- Smoking may increase your risk of bladder weakness.
- Family history. Your risk of developing bladder weakness is higher if a close family member has it, especially urge incontinence,
- Neurological disease or diabetes may increase your risk of bladder weakness.
- As you get older, the muscles supporting your bladder typically become weaker, which raises your risk for incontinence.
- Being overweight increases pressure on your bladder and surrounding muscles, weakening them and allowing urine to leak out when you cough or sneeze.
Mayo Clinic. Patient Care & Health Information. Diseases & Conditions. Urinary incontinence. Symptoms and Causes. [Online] 9 Feb 2023. Accessed 15 Feb 2023. Available from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/urinary-incontinence/symptoms-causes/syc-20352808
Healthline. Why Am I Experiencing Urinary Incontinence? [Online] 9 Feb 2022 Accessed 15 Mar 2022. Available from: https://www.healthline.com/health/urinary-incontinence#when-to-seek-help