Medically Reviewed by Nazia Q Bandukwala, DO on January 19, 2021

It happens to everyone with age.

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Myth. Urinary incontinence -- leaking urine that you can’t control -- is not an inevitable part of aging. Even if it does happen to you, there are ways to get the problem under control. If you start to notice symptoms, let your doctor know so you can figure out the best treatment plan.

Bladder problems are common.

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Fact. Around one-third of older men and half of all women leak accidentally from time to time. It’s even more likely for women during and after pregnancy, childbirth, or menopause.

It only affects older people.

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Myth. Lots of things can cause incontinence: Obesity, anxiety, smoking, or nerve damage from diabetes, Alzheimer's, or Parkinson’s. For women, pregnancy, childbirth, and menopause might cause it. Prostate problems can be the cause in men. You can even have temporary symptoms from too much alcohol or caffeine.

Constipation makes it worse.

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Fact. When you can’t poop, you’re more likely to have an infection and other problems in your urinary tract that can affect your bladder control. Make sure you get enough exercise, fluids, and fiber from vegetables, fruits, and whole grains to keep you regular. If that’s not enough, talk to your doctor about supplements, medication, and diet changes that might help. 

It’s because your bladder is small.

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Myth. Most people don’t actually have a bladder that’s physically smaller than normal. But for some, the organ can’t hold the usual amount of urine (about 2 cups) or its muscle loses the ability to stretch to hold that amount of fluid. That can lead to an overactive bladder and incontinence. 

You can train your bladder.

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Fact. This is one way to improve incontinence. It means you build a routine where you pee every 2 or 3 hours. If you feel the urge to go before then, you might use deep breathing or meditation to help you get through it. Eventually, you can extend the time that you are able to wait. It may help to keep a diary of your bathroom habits to see if you are making progress.

You should drink less to stop leaks.

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Myth. Without enough fluids, your urine gets too strong, which can irritate your bladder. Make sure you stay hydrated throughout the day. Still, your doctor might suggest you avoid some drinks, like those with caffeine or alcohol, which cause irritation. And it might be a good idea to limit how much you drink a few hours before bedtime to prevent problems when you sleep.  

Exercise can help your bladder.

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Fact. Strong pelvic floor muscles help you hold in your urine. Men and women can strengthen them with Kegel exercises that tighten and relax the muscles that release and stop your pee. If you have trouble figuring out which muscles to work on, a doctor or physical therapist with special training can help you find and flex them correctly. 

It’s permanent.

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Myth. Incontinence isn’t a disease by itself -- it’s a symptom of another health problem. A temporary condition like an infection could cause it. Treat that with antibiotics, and the incontinence goes away. But even when it’s due to a long-term illness like diabetes, there are exercises, diet changes, devices, medications, and surgery that can treat both the illness and your bladder problem.

It helps to quit smoking.

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Fact. Smoking makes you cough more, which can stress your bladder and make you pee accidentally. It’s also the biggest cause of bladder cancer, which can lead to incontinence and other serious problems. And some people say that it irritates their bladder and makes them want to pee more. 

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American Society of Clinical Oncology: “Urinary Incontinence.”

Urology Care Foundation: “What is Bladder Augmentation?”

Kidney and Urology Foundation of America: “Urodynamic Testing.”

Mayo Clinic: “Urinary incontinence,” “Constipation.”

Merck Manual: “Urinary Incontinence in Adults.”

National Association for Continence: “Six Myths About Urinary Incontinence.”

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: “Bladder Control Problems (Urinary Incontinence).”