The Link Between UTIs and Urge Incontinence

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) and urge incontinence are two separate but potentially interconnected conditions. Is there a link between them? Let’s look at both and explore the possibility of one leading to the other as well as resources for patients who suffer from these conditions.

Definition, symptoms, and treatment of a UTI

UTIs are infections that occur in any part of the urinary system, which can include the urethra, bladder, ureters, or kidneys. The most common UTIs are caused by bacteria, like Escherichia coli (E. coli), which can be found in the gastrointestinal tract. When bacteria enter the urinary tract and multiply, an infection can develop, which leads to symptoms like frequent and urgent urination, burning sensation during urination, and cloudy or bloody urine. There may also be a smell, fever, and/or pain associated with a UTI. Treatment for a UTI is generally around of antibiotics prescribed by a healthcare provider.

Definition, symptoms, and treatment of urge incontinence

Urge incontinence, also known as overactive bladder (OAB), is a type of urinary incontinence characterized by a sudden and intense urge to urinate, often resulting in an involuntary loss of urine. People with urge incontinence may experience urinary urgency even when their bladder is not full. The first line of treatment includes lifestyle changes such as keeping a voiding dairy, dietary modifications, and avoiding bladder irritants like caffeine and smoking. Strengthening the pelvic floor can also help.

Can a UTI cause incontinence?

The link between UTIs and incontinence can be caused by several different factors. In some cases, a UTI can trigger or worsen symptoms of urge incontinence. The inflammation and irritation caused by the infection can lead to bladder spasms and increase the urgency to urinate. These spasms may cause involuntary urine leakage, resulting in urge incontinence episodes.

Chronic or recurrent UTIs can contribute to bladder dysfunction, which may present as urge incontinence. Repeated infections can damage the bladder lining, affect the nerves that control bladder function, or lead to changes in the bladder’s muscle tone. These alterations can disrupt normal bladder contractions and increase the frequency and urgency of urination, leading to urge incontinence.

Coping with the psychological effects of UTIs and urge incontinence

Urge incontinence can have an emotional and psychological impact as well. Shame and insecurity are often the results of uncontrolled loss of bladder functions. Over time, this leads to the avoidance of social interactions and possibly to depression and isolation. Also, there can be increased anxiety with incontinence that can affect an individual’s sex life. One study has shown that many women feel anxious that they may experience incontinence during sex, and try to avoid the act altogether. This can lead to psychological trauma between couples due to a lack of intimacy.

Also, it can lead to less activity, which can lead to other health complications associated with a sedentary lifestyle. Skin infections are common among those who experience frequent incontinence because of excessive moisture contact. When skin continuously comes into contact with bacteria from waste products, it can easily result in incontinence dermatitis (also known as diaper rash) and bacterial or fungal infections.

Fortunately, there are resources available. The National Association of Continence has many resources and educational material on its website. Sufferers can sign up for their newsletter or share experiences with others on their message boards. 

Find Relief at the Incontinence Institute in Middle Tennessee

While UTIs may contribute to the development or exacerbation of urge incontinence, not all cases of urge incontinence are caused by UTIs. Other factors, like age, hormonal changes, neurological conditions, certain medications, and bladder muscle abnormalities can also play a role in the development of urge incontinence.If you are experiencing symptoms of UTIs or urge incontinence, it is essential to consult a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment. Here at the Incontinence Institute, we can help you navigate the challenges associated with incontinence.  Contact us today for more information.