Can Diabetes Cause Incontinence?

Can Diabetes Cause Incontinence?

  • On March 19, 2018

The link between incontinence and Diabetes is one that is often overlooked. However, many studies and data over the years have shown Diabetes to a huge risk factor for incontinence. A study in 2005 for example, focussed on 1,017 postmenopausal women. 218 women in the study were diabetic. Interestingly, it was the women with Diabetes who reported disproportionately more severe incontinence.


So why is Incontinence So Prevalent in Diabetics?



A huge complication in Diabetics that causes incontinence is nerve damage. According to an HHS study, it costs over £4,000 a year to manage incontinence. Surprisingly, a large proportion of this treatment involves improving control of blood sugar. Nerve damage (neuropathy) in Diabetics is caused by high blood sugar levels. Your body has a network of autonomic nerves that run from your heart to your bladder. When the autonomic nerves in the bladder and bowel are affected by diabetic neuropathy, this can cause involuntary leakage. In addition to this, neuropathy also affects the legs and hands. This can lead to issues of incontinence as it can prevent individuals from reaching the bathroom quickly enough.

Diabetic Neuropathy


The Prevalence of High Body Mass Index

Having a high body mass index is another risk factor for developing incontinence. It is estimated that each 5-unit increase in body mass index is associated with an incontinence prevalence risk of up to 50%. Type 2 Diabetes accounts for up to 90% of all Diabetic cases and is strongly linked to obesity. Many studies have shown that people who are obese are up to 80 times more likely to develop type 2 Diabetes than those with a BMI of less than 22. This risk is due to excessive weight causing additional stress to be placed on a person’s pelvic floor muscles. Excessive weight can ultimately lead to chronic strain, stretching and weakening of the muscles of the pelvic area. Researcher Noblett K asserts, “there are strong correlations between BMI and intra-abdominal pressure and intravesical pressure, suggesting obesity causes additional pressure. This means a person with a higher BMI may have weaker pelvic floor muscles than someone with a lower BMI.”

BMI Diabetes


A Weak Immune System

Diabetes is often considered an autoimmune disease, particularly type 1. In this condition, the immune system destroys insulin-producing cells within the pancreas. In type 2 Diabetes, the body does not produce enough insulin or does not use it right away. This is called insulin resistance. Both of these types can severely lower the actions of the immune system. As a result, Diabetic individuals are much more prone to sickness and infection due to the reduced action of white blood cells. This means individuals are at a greater risk of developing a urinary tract infection. This condition can cause embarrassing accidents and is a common cause of urge incontinence. Along with causing pain in the lower abdomen and cloudy urine, you may feel that you need to pass urine often and urgently.

Diabetes Mellitus

The Risk of Coronary Artery Disease?

Diabetes is an independent risk factor for coronary artery disease. Congestive heart failure caused by Diabetes-related coronary artery disease causes the heart to no longer pump sufficient blood. In 1974, Kannel et al reported Diabetes to be “another discrete cause of congestive heart failure” and postulated this to be due to metabolic disturbances. Shockingly, in a study of postmenopausal women with prior history of coronary disease, Diabetes was recognized to be the strongest predictor of heart failure. Congestive heart failure causes your legs and feet to retain water. The incidence of Diabetes among heart failure patients is observed to be growing. This causes your body to create too much urine during the night. You may suffer from Nocturnal Enuresis as a consequence and have your sleep pattern disturbed by the discomfort.

Woman with nocturnal enuresis

Giving Birth to a Larger Baby

Research over the years has also found that women with Gestational Diabetes during pregnancy have a higher than average of giving birth to a larger baby. Studies have shown that this condition can increase your chances of having a baby who weighs more than 4.5kg. Typically, this weight is considered larger than average. High levels of glucose in a woman can cross the placenta and lead to high levels in the fetus. As a result, the fetus produces insulin, which stimulates its own growth. This can result in injuries to the perineum and bladder during giving birth. The sphincter controlling the mouth of the bladder can often be severely damaged. This can manifest as retention of urine in the bladder or cause incontinence.

These deliveries improve the risk of damaging the muscles surrounding the birth canal, including muscles that control the bladder. This can be compared to the impact that obesity has on your bladder muscles.

If you are affected by incontinence due to Diabetes, do not be afraid to approach a Doctor. Establish the most suitable treatment method and be proactive by finding the perfect product. You can visit our range of products for men and women to view your options.

Are you unsure which product you should be using? Have a read of our guide to choosing an incontinence product.