Incontinence affects between 3 and 6 million people in the UK alone, and can vary in its longevity depending on the cause or condition. It is temporary incontinence, and the causes, symptoms and treatments available for it, that we are concerned with here.
Temporary incontinence, as the name suggests, is short term and is usually caused either by a sudden lifestyle change, such as pregnancy, as a result of surgery, or a health concern such as a urinary tract infection.
Here are a few of the most common causes of temporary incontinence:
Pregnancy - As one might expect, having a baby can put tremendous strain on your body, especially the bladder. Due to the increase in pressure on the bladder, most women will experience symptoms of stress incontinence, feeling the need to go to the toilet more frequently and without warning. Although the symptoms caused by pressure tend to subside after childbirth, many women will have weakened pelvic floor muscles after giving birth, which in some cases can lead to long-term incontinence issues.
Prostate Inflammation (Prostatitis) - Acute prostate inflammation occurs when bacteria from the urinary tract enters the prostate. The condition, also known as acute prostatitis, can lead many to experience symptoms of pain around their genitals. It can also lead to symptoms similar to that of a urinary tract infection, such as the inability to pass urine, an increase in how often you feel you need the toilet, and pain while urinating. Treatment includes antibiotics and pain relief medication (paracetamol and ibuprofen). Some men experience these symptoms long-term and this is known as chronic prostatitis. In this case your doctor is usually unable to find a reason for your symptoms and will instead focus on pain management with symptoms often improving over a long period (months to years).
Urinary tract infection (inflammation) - Urinary tract infection (UTIs), such as cystitis, can cause bouts of urge incontinence, which can increase the amount you feel you need to go to the toilet, as well as making it more painful when you do go. Although painful and uncomfortable, most UTIs go away on their own or can be treated with over the counter medicines or a course of antibiotics.
Side effects of certain medications - There are a number of medications that act as diuretics (causing more urine to be passed), including many medications commonly used to treat heart conditions. Antidepressants, tranquilisers, certain cold remedies and antihistamines can also impair the ability of the bladder to work as needed.
Significant weight gain - Weight gain can stretch your pelvic floor muscles, making it more difficult for you to control your bladder. Also the excess weight can force pressure on the bladder increasing the risk of accidents. Those with a significantly higher BMI (a person’s weight relevant to their height) are more likely to develop incontinence as a result of their weight gain.
Severe constipation - When severely constipated, stools can become stiff and difficult to pass. Due to the significant pressure being put on the bladder by the stool, very often the bladder cannot withstand the pressure and can result in leakage.
Even certain food and drink can encourage symptoms of incontinence as they act as diuretics. Caffeine, alcohol, fizzy drinks, and spicy or acidic foods can encourage the production of more urine, making you need the toilet more frequently.
How to treat temporary incontinence
In cases where an infection is to blame, antibiotics and rest will treat the problem. However, in situations where lifestyle choices have led to incontinence, lifestyle changes are the most effective treatment:
- If your incontinence is caused by being overweight, controlling your weight is the best way to reduce the added pressure being put on your bladder. If you are struggling with controlling your weight, please visit our talkweight forum for tips and advice.
- If you consume large quantities of alcohol, avoiding or cutting down on it can improve your bladder condition.
- Pelvic floor exercises (Kegels) and keeping fit in general are important when it comes to ensuring that your pelvic floor muscles are strong, as this can limit the number of incontinence episodes you have.
Incontinence, whether long-term or temporary, can have a negative effect on you emotionally. If you are struggling with incontinence and you would like to talk to someone, please visit our talkbladder forum where you can speak with others who share the same experiences as you.
If you have incontinence and you would like to share your story, please do email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sources used in the writing of this article are available on request.
Information contained in this Articles page has been written by talkhealth based on available medical evidence. Our evidence-based articles are certified by the Information Standard and our sources are available on request. The content is not, though, written by medical professionals and should never be considered a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek medical advice before changing your treatment routine. talkhealth does not endorse any specific products, brands, or treatments.
Information written by the talkhealth team
Last revised: 13 October 2016
Next review: 13 October 2019