Urinary Incontinence For Health Professionals: Reversible Causes

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Reversible Causes

Eliminate reversible causes.

Causes/contributing factors

 Recommendations or explanations


Identify cause(s): metabolic, infectious, neurological


Treat the infection

Atrophic vaginitis

Treat with topical estrogen


Consider stopping or substituting the following medications if possible:

  • anticholinergics
  • antidepressants
  • antipsychotics
  • hypnotics/sedatives
  • antihistamines
  • narcotics
  • alpha-adrenergic agonists
  • diuretics
  • angiotensin conversion enzymes (if they cause coughing)
  • oral estrogens


Severe depression (rare)

Excess urination

Heart failure, diabetes, peripheral edema, use of diuretics, excess liquid consumption

Reduced mobility

Use of a commode, prescribe a walker, send to physio to improve gait speed and joint function


Treat appropriately

Neurological lesions

Eliminate the possibility of tumours on the discs, brain and spinal cord, as well as cervical lesions, and treat.

Bladder pathology

Hematuria may indicate bladder stones, polyps, tumors, or inflammations. Diagnostic, cystoscopy required.


Correct and look for underlying pathology as it may cause excessive urination.

Weakness of pelvic floor muscles

Causes urine leakage on the way to the bathroom. Treat with pelvic floor muscles exercises.


Limit or eliminate alcohol consumption


Limit or eliminate caffeine consumption (coffee, tea, chocolate)

Excessive ingestion of liquids

Limit liquid consumption


Dementia as such does not cause urinary incontinence, but the related functional deficits (such as undressing apraxia or mobility problems, for example) may lead to incontinence.

Next: Differential Diagnosis


We are pleased to house this series of FAQs for health professionals, supervised by Cara Tannenbaum, from the Centre de recherche de l’Institut universitaire de gériatrie de Montréal.

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