11 Common Causes of Incontinence

Urinary incontinence, or the loss of bladder control, can occur for many different reasons. Understanding the types of incontinence, the risk factors, and the many causes of incontinence can help you make better decisions about how to manage it. Learn more about incontinence with the team at UnderX today!

What Is Incontinence?

Incontinence occurs when an individual can no longer voluntarily control the bladder sphincter, or the muscle that holds urine inside the bladder. There are four primary types, and each one has its own unique set of incontinence causes

  • Stress Incontinence: Stress incontinence occurs when an outside force exerts pressure on the bladder and forces the sphincter muscle open. 
  • Urge Incontinence: Urge incontinence involves a very sudden and very strong need to urinate followed by leakage. People who experience this type of incontinence may wake frequently in the night or may need to urinate many times during the day. 
  • Overflow Incontinence: Overflow incontinence occurs when the bladder does not completely empty. It is often accompanied by small amounts of leakage that occurs either constantly or frequently. 
  • Functional Incontinence: Functional incontinence results from some sort of impairment or loss of function that makes it difficult to reach the bathroom in time.

  • Many people experience what is known as mixed incontinence, or a combination of two or more types. For example, in many cases, urge incontinence and stress incontinence occur together. Furthemore, according to the Mayo Clinic, incontinence may be temporary or persistent. 

    Although incontinence can be difficult to manage, with UnderX, you have a choice between tabbed briefs, that can hold up to 10 cups of liquid, or pull-ups, which are 30% more absorbent than the competition. 

    Causes of Incontinence 

    There are dozens of incontinence causes, but for the most part, they fit into 11 simple categories. Some of these conditions are treatable and even reversible, but others are more persistent and often lifelong. Anyone experiencing ongoing urinary incontinence should consult with a physician to rule out serious medical conditions. 

    Physical Injury or Damage

    The pelvic floor serves as a sling that supports organs such as the bladder, uterus, and rectum, and it is essential in maintaining bladder and bowel function. Any kind of physical injury or damage to the pelvic floor can lead to incontinence. Some of the most common causes of pelvic floor damage include traumatic injuries and certain surgeries, such as hysterectomies. Pregnancy and childbirth are the most common causes. Data published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology in 2024 notes that 10% of the three million women who give birth vaginally experience some sort of pelvic floor disorder. 

    Enlarged Prostate

    The prostate gland produces and releases the fluid that keeps sperm alive and healthy. As men age, the prostate tends to enlarge with time. Because this organ is wrapped around the neck of the bladder, enlargement can put pressure on the bladder and lead to some degree of incontinence. An enlarged prostate is the single most common cause of incontinence in men. 


    As people age, their muscles become weaker – including the bladder-supporting muscles in the pelvic floor. Over time, as this weakening progresses, the risk for incontinence (and its severity) grows. Adults who remain as active as possible, eat a healthy and balanced diet, and maintain a healthy weight have a better chance at maintaining strong muscles and avoiding incontinence. 


    Bladder and prostate cancers are also common causes of incontinence. Even when the cancer is caught early, some of the treatments used to shrink or eliminate the cancer can cause a loss of bladder control. In rare situations, benign tumors located on or near the bladder sphincter or the urethral opening can block the flow of urine. 


    Constipation occurs when bowel movements become infrequent or stop, leading to a backup of stool, often in the colon. A full colon puts pressure on the bladder, which can make existing bladder leaks worse or even cause urge incontinence – a sudden and intense urge to urinate accompanied by leaks. Constipation is treatable with a balanced diet, plenty of water, and exercise. Sufferers of chronic constipation should consult their physicians. 

    Urinary Tract Infections

    Urinary tract infections are bacterial infections in the urethra, ureters, bladder, or kidneys. These infections can lead to swelling in the bladder and urethra, which can cause pain during urination, urge incontinence, or even leakage. Fortunately, the incontinence is usually temporary and improves when the urinary tract infection heals. 

    Kidney or Bladder Stones

    Kidney and bladder stones are buildups of minerals, such as salt and calcium, that develop in the kidneys. When they travel through the ureters into the bladder, they are known as bladder stones. Because these stones can cause irritation when traveling through the body, they can lead to blockages or incontinence, including urge and overflow incontinence. Many stones pass on their own, and the symptoms disappear. However, some cases require surgical intervention to remove or break up the stones. 

    Interstitial Cystitis

    Interstitial cystitis is a chronic condition that causes pain and pressure in the bladder, ranging from mild to severe. In some cases, it may also cause significant pelvic pain. The bladder walls become inflamed and swollen, which causes the brain to think the bladder is full, leading to urge incontinence. There is no cure for this condition, but there are numerous therapies and medications available that can improve quality of life. 

    Alcohol Consumption

    One of the more surprising causes of incontinence is heavy alcohol consumption. Heavy drinking over time can lead to nerve damage, which affects the bladder sphincter. It can also lead to dehydration, making the urine more concentrated in the bladder. Though dehydration is reversible, nerve damage is not. Drinking lightly or in moderation is the best way to avoid incontinence caused by alcohol. 

    Caffeine Consumption

    Researchers continue to debate whether caffeine is a direct cause of incontinence. Some studies have shown a correlation between increased caffeine consumption and incontinence in women, but others have shown no difference between those who consume a great deal of caffeine and those who consume none. Even so, researchers do know that coffee is a diuretic, which can lead to increased urine output and urgency, potentially causing urine leakage. Like alcohol, it is best to consume caffeine responsibly and in limited amounts. 


    According to researchers at Harvard University, there are several medications that can either be causes of incontinence or worsen an existing issue. The most common culprits include the following:

  • Diuretics: These medications increase urine production in the kidneys to remove excess fluid from the body. They can cause overactive bladder or stress incontinence. 
  • Sedatives and muscle relaxers: These medications sedate and relax the body, alleviating anxiety or muscle spasms. They can also relax the urethra, making it more difficult to control the flow of urine. 
  • Narcotics: Narcotics can have the same impact as sedatives and muscle relaxers, though they can make it difficult for some people to start a urine stream. They are also more likely to cause leakage. 
  • Antihistamines: Antihistamines can relax the bladder to the point that it retains urine without signaling the brain that it is full. Overflow incontinence is most common with regular antihistamine use. 

  • The causes of incontinence are many, and for some people, there may be more than one cause. Anyone who is experiencing urinary incontinence should see their physician for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan. Often, those who are being treated rely on adult incontinence products to keep them dry and odor-free. Quality, discreet underwear can reduce embarrassment and shame, allowing individuals with incontinence to live their lives normally. 

    Help Manage Your Incontinence With UnderX!

    Incontinence can be difficult to manage, but it doesn't have to! With UnderX products, you can be sure that your incontinence won't get in the way of living your life. With UnderX men's and women's incontinence products, you can get back to living life, without incontinence holding you back!

    Leave a comment

    Please note, comments must be approved before they are published