What is Urinary Leakage?

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  • Written By: Allison Boelcke
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 11 August 2019
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Urinary leakage, also known as urinary incontinence, is a condition in which a person loses control of his or her bladder functions. The leakage can be mild and result in a few drops of urine. More severe cases are characterized by leakage that is so strong and uncontrollable it affects a person’s normal routine.

Brief, one-time urinary leakage can occur after drinking caffeine or alcohol because these substances naturally strengthen the urge to urinate. Drinks with carbonation, especially soft drinks, can cause leakage because they can inflame the bladder. Certain medications, such as sedatives and muscle relaxants, may cause short-term leakage.

Mild cases of urinary leakage are typically caused by physical pressure on the bladder. Urine can leak from the bladder during physical exertion or after forceful coughing or laughing, without a feeling of urgency beforehand. This type of leakage often occurs in people with weakened bladder control muscles, known as sphincters. Sphincters can be affected due to pregnancy or menopause in women, or prostate surgery in men.

In severe cases of urinary leakage, a person feels an uncontrollable physical impulse to urinate that is so strong, he or she cannot make it to a toilet in time. Severe urges can be caused by a variety of preexisting conditions, such as stroke or multiple sclerosis. It can also be a symptom of neurological disorders like Parkinson’s disease or Alzheimer’s disease. Severe leakage can also occur due to bacterial infections in the urinary tract.


Functional urinary leakage is a type of leakage that most often occurs in the elderly. They may have physical conditions that prevent them from making it to a toilet or being able to perform the necessary steps without assistance. If people have mental impairment, they may experience leakage because they do not recognize the warning signs of urination or they don’t know how to locate a toilet.

The most serious type of urinary leakage occurs when there are anatomical issues with the bladder. Some people may be born with defects that don’t allow the bladder to hold urine. Bladder function can also be damaged after injury to the urinary tract or spinal cord.

Urinary leakage can be treated with lifestyle changes, such as giving up caffeine or alcohol. It can also be treated with bladder training, in which a person learns to control urination by following a schedule and urinating at the same times throughout the day. If leakage occurs due to weakened sphincter muscles, they can be strengthened by performing exercises in which they contract and release the muscles. Finally, surgery can be performed if there is a physical problem with the bladder.

Serious complications can arise if urinary leakage is not treated. If the skin is constantly wet with urine, it can become chafed and covered with sores. People with severe leakage may become isolated or depressed. Leakage can also be indicative of underlying conditions, such as diabetes, so not treating it could prevent other conditions from being diagnosed.


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