Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario

Nursing Best Practice Guidelines

Health Education Fact Sheet

Incontinence: Breaking the Silence

Did you know that urinary incontinence affects over 3 million Canadians?

Urinary incontinence is the involuntary loss of urine and can be an embarrassing problem. Fortunately,help is available!

Here are some facts that might surprise you:

  • Urinary incontinence can touch individuals at any stage of life, but it is most common with older adults.
  • It affects one in four Canadians over the age of 65.
  • It can disrupt normal routines and cause people to avoid activities they used to enjoy.
  • Most people experiencing incontinence suffer in silence and do not seek help.

Urinary incontinence is a Symptom, not a disease. It is Nota natural part of aging but there are some things related to age that can contribute to the problem. Factors which can contribute to incontinence are:

  • Difficulty getting to the toilet due to physical limitations;
  • Caffeine intake in tea, coffee and some soft drinks can cause irritability of the bladder causing urgency, frequency of urination and incontinence;
  • Not drinking enough fluids makes your urine more concentrated, which can irritate your bladder and cause you to urinate more often;
  • Constipation;
  • Conditions such as stroke, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis or other health problems that affect the nervous system can contribute to incontinence;
  • A bladder infection;
  • Some medications can increase the frequency of urination (water pills or diuretics) while others can reduce your awareness of the urge to void (sedatives, tranquilizers and muscle relaxants); and
  • Coughing, sneezing, laughing, lifting or any activity that causes increased pressure on the bladder and pelvic floor.

What can you do to help yourself:

  • Reduce your caffeine intake or switch to decaffeinated beverages.
  • If it takes you a while to get to the bathroom, then get into a routine of going at regular intervals every 2 to 3 hours rather than waiting for the sudden urge.
  • Keep your bowels regular and avoid constipation.
  • Increase your water intake to 4 to 5 glasses per day along with your regular fluid intake.
  • If you are still having problems talk to your doctor about a continence assessment with a urologist, urogynecologist or nurse continence advisor.

Where else can I get information?
If you or a family member/friend have access to a computer, visit The Canadian Continence Foundation website at or call their consumer helpline at 1-800-265-9575 for additional information on urinary incontinence.