Urge urinary incontinence

Urge urinary incontinence describes the sudden and strong urge to urinate, caused by a spasm of the bladder muscles. It can cause you to urinate involuntarily (wet yourself a bit or a lot).

Symptoms of urge urinary incontinence

  • Uncontrollable urination (incontinence)
  • Frequent urination
  • Urinary urgency – sudden urge to urinate

Causes of urge urinary incontinence

Your bladder fills up with urine that arrives from the kidneys, and as the bladder fills, the bladder cells get ‘told’ to stretch to accommodate it. The first ‘urge’ to go is when there is around one cup of urine in your bladder, however it is normal to be able to hold two cups.

If the bladder muscle gets triggered for some reason (perhaps anxiety or fright, or an infection), it can cause you to wet yourself in what is called urge incontinence. It is not thought to be permanent or even indicative of an ongoing problem, but if it happened without a cause you can identify, you need to seek medical attention because it could have nefarious roots.

Urge urinary incontinence is most common in older people.


The diagnosis of urge urinary incontinence depends entirely on the cause, however the cause will need to be found which is going to include a collection of tests. Doctors may want to examine you physically, look inside the bladder, do exercise tests, ultrasounds, post-void tests (urinating then seeing how much urine is left in the bladder), urinalysis, blood tests, flow tests, x-rays, and lifestyle/diet questions.


Lifestyle and diet changes might include water and fluid intake (how much, type of drink, timing, amount), and foods that cause urine to become more acidic like caffeine, citrus, spicy food and artificial sweeteners. Avoiding irritating soaps and bath additives can also help.


  • Anticholinergics relax the bladder (oxybutynin, Oxytrol, Ditropan, tolterodine, Detrol, darifenacin, Enablex, trospium, Sanctura, solifenacin, Vesicare)
  • Antibiotics for infections
  • Antispasmodics to relax muscles
  • Antidepressants that can also act as paralysers of the bladder muscles
  • Botox injections into the bladder to paralyse an overactive bladder

Surgery may work in your particular urge urinary incontinence, but speak to your doctor about your options.

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Jessica Lloyd - Vulvovaginal Specialist Naturopathic Practitioner, BHSc(N)

Jessica is a degree-qualified naturopath (BHSc) specialising in vulvovaginal health and disease, based in Melbourne, Australia.

Jessica is the owner and lead naturopath of My Vagina, and is a member of the:

  • International Society for the Study of Vulvovaginal Disease (ISSVD)
  • International Society for the Study of Women's Sexual Health (ISSWSH)
  • National Vulvodynia Association (NVA) Australia
  • New Zealand Vulvovaginal Society (ANZVS)
  • Australian Traditional Medicine Society (ATMS)