Are you living with diabetes? Do you ever experience unexpected urine leakage, nighttime bedwetting, or accidents when you laugh, cough, or sneeze? It’s possible there’s a connection between diabetes and urinary incontinence.
While the link between diabetes and urinary incontinence is not fully understood, doctors have several theories as to why people with diabetes are at higher risk of developing urinary incontinence.
Let’s go over the potential connection and why this may happen. Plus, we’ll go over some helpful ways to manage urinary incontinence related to diabetes.
What is Diabetes?
First, what exactly is diabetes, also known as diabetes mellitus? According to the CDC, “diabetes is a chronic health condition that affects how your body turns food into energy.” Our bodies work by turning the food we eat into glucose (sugar). Next, the pancreas gets the signal to use that sugar as energy by releasing insulin. This acts as energy for our cells to keep us going.
When someone is living with diabetes, their body doesn’t make enough insulin naturally. This can cause high blood sugar levels, which may lead to other serious issues and symptoms.
Symptoms of Diabetes Mellitus May Include:
- Extreme thirst and/or hunger
- Increased frequency of urination
- Wounds that heal too slowly
- Blurring vision
- Frequent infections, such as yeast infections
If you have diabetes, doctors may recommend regular blood sugar monitoring with a blood sugar meter, which may help catch complications and notify when blood sugar levels are too high.
When left untreated or unmonitored, diabetes can cause mild to severe complications. Plus, this condition may increase the risk of other related diseases or medical conditions, such as yeast infections, organ damage, dementia, and cardiovascular problems.
Can Diabetes Cause Urinary Incontinence?
Diabetes is associated with a risk of incontinence. In fact, according to recent research, women living with diabetes may have up to a 70% higher risk of urinary incontinence.
This risk may due in part because diabetes is capable of damaging the body’s nerves. This is known as neuropathy.
Neuropathy (nerve damage) around the bladder and urinary system can cause neurogenic bladder. Some refer to neurogenic bladder in people with diabetes as “diabetic bladder.” This refers to the partial or full loss of bladder control.
Symptoms of a neurogenic or diabetic bladder may include:
- Urinary incontinence (loss of bladder control)
- Urinary retention or incomplete bladder emptying
- Overactive bladder (too frequent urination)
- Underactive bladder (bladder getting too full then leaking)
- Inability to tell when you need to go to the bathroom
When left untreated, diabetes can cause mild to severe complications. Plus, it may increase the risk of other related diseases or medical conditions.
4 Reasons Behind the Connection Between Diabetes and Incontinence
In addition to nerve damage from diabetes, which can cause neurogenic bladder, a few other reasons may contribute to the increased likelihood of someone with diabetes developing incontinence.
The following are the four more potential reasons for the correlation between diabetes and incontinence.
1. Diabetes-related obesity may cause stress urinary incontinence.
Diabetics, whether they have Type 1, Type 2, or gestational diabetes, may have higher rates of obesity than non-diabetics. In fact, according to research, around 90% of people with Type 2 diabetes are either obese or overweight with a body mass index (BMI) over 25.
A high BMI, as well as an increased waist-to-hip ratio, may mean extra weight collecting around the lower abdomen. This additional pressure on the lower abdomen may also press against the bladder and its surrounding nerves and muscle tissue.
This can lead to a type of urinary incontinence known as stress incontinence. If you frequently experience any amount of bladder leakage when you exert pressure on your bladder by coughing, laughing, sneezing, or being physically active, you may be experiencing stress urinary incontinence.
2. Diabetes may increase the risk of urinary tract infections.
Because diabetes impacts the body in many ways, including a lower immune system response, some people with diabetes may experience an increased risk of infections, such as yeast infections and skin infections. Among these, urinary tract infections and bladder infections are also a risk for people living with Type 1 diabetes, Type 2 diabetes, and/or gestational diabetes.
Urinary tract infections can sometimes mimic symptoms similar to urinary incontinence, such as dribbling. In addition, people with a UTI sometimes feel an increased urgency and frequency of urination.
Repeated urinary tract infections may cause damage to the bladder, which may also play a part in the connection between diabetes and incontinence.
3. Nerve damage from diabetes may cause neurogenic bladder and incontinence.
As mentioned above, neuropathy, or nerve damage, can impact the nerves surrounding the bladder. Additionally, it may also impact the bowels,
The cauda equina nerves are a group of nerves that supply muscle sensations to the legs, bladder, and bowels.
When a person with diabetes has prolonged exposure to high blood sugar levels, they can begin to experience nerve damage. If diabetic patients experience nerve damage to the cauda equina nerves, they may experience loss of bladder and bowel control, which can cause either urinary or fecal incontinence.
4. Some diabetes medication may cause urinary or fecal incontinence.
Some medications used to treat diabetes, such as Metformin, may have side effects related to bowel or bladder incontinence. Diarrhea, in particular, is a possible side effect of certain diabetic drugs.
Talk to your doctor about any side effects you may be experiencing with any new prescription drugs. Your doctor may be able to prescribe an alternative or another medication to help treat issues like frequent diarrhea.
How to Manage Diabetes and Incontinence
If you’re experiencing urinary or fecal incontinence, it’s time to start managing it before it impacts your quality of life.
First, be sure to see your general health practitioner or a specialist like a urologist. They can pinpoint the cause behind why you’re experiencing incontinence.
Then, together, you and your doctor can come up with a management plan to suit your needs.
This may include solutions such as:
- Pelvic floor exercises (Kegel exercises) to strengthen your muscles that help hold in urine
- Bladder retraining by following a set schedule
- Diet, fluid intake, and/or physical activity changes
- New medication (prescription or over-the-counter, depending on your doctor’s recommendations)
- The use of incontinence supplies to manage bladder and bowel issues
In more severe cases of diabetes-related incontinence, your doctor may recommend surgery or alternative options such as Botox injections in the bladder muscle, which may help reduce bladder overactivity.
Where to Buy Incontinence Products Through Insurance
Are you in need of incontinence supplies such as liners, bladder pads, disposable pull-on underwear, and bed pads? 180 Medical is proud to be one of the top-rated suppliers in the nation of incontinence supplies as well as ostomy products and intermittent catheters.
180 Medical carries a wide variety of incontinence product types and sizes from all leading, high-quality incontinence brands, including:
Plus, we’re contracted with most state Medicaid plans, Medicare, and many private insurance plans, including United Healthcare, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Cigna, and more.
Contact 180 Medical to ask about free incontinence samples or how to get started on your first order of incontinence supplies.