The Connection Between Diabetes and Incontinence
by Gary Sattin on Oct 05, 2022
Diabetes is a chronic disease that harms the body’s nervous system over time, and in doing so, it can cause urinary incontinence. Diabetes results from the body’s inability to make or use insulin, a hormone that tells blood glucose to enter cells for use. When the glucose, or sugar, doesn’t leave the bloodstream, it damages nervous tissue by cutting off nutrients and oxygen. When specific nerves related to urinary function deteriorate, this induces continence. To understand more about the connection between diabetes and incontinence and how to address your symptoms, read our guide on the topic.
Diabetic neuropathy, or nerve damage caused by diabetes, affects urinary control when autonomic nerves break down. Autonomic nerves originate in the spine and control organ function, and when they break down, people experience bladder issues lumped under the term neurogenic bladder. This encompasses any loss of bladder control due to brain signals’ inability to reach the bladder and regulate the urinary process. People with diabetes commonly lose nerve function in their arms and legs—this lowers mobility and lessens their chances of going to the bathroom when they need to.
Excess sugar can do long-term nerve damage, but the presence of high blood sugar causes incontinent episodes in other ways, too, further connecting diabetes with experiences of incontinence. According to the Simon Foundation for Continence, glucose pulls water from cells as it passes in the bloodstream, increasing your thirst. Drinking more to compensate for thirst induces more urination. At the same time, your body senses the excess sugar and tries to clear it via urination. All these factors increase urination frequency and lessen urinary control.
Diabetes is a chronic condition, but that doesn’t mean you can’t limit your symptoms by being proactive. Being careful about your sugar intake is one important step, but there are other ways to address symptoms.
Improper insulin function can cause your muscles to weaken. This pertains to incontinence because your pelvic muscles are responsible for lessening the effects of stress incontinence, which arises when your weight or activity apply pressure to your bladder and lead to loss of control. One common strategy for keeping your muscles strong is by engaging in pelvic floor muscle exercises. Kegel exercises keep your pelvic floor strong and capable of handling pressure.
Using incontinence products can stop the discouraging cycle of accidents and hassle. People with bladder symptoms related to diabetes should explore what absorbent undergarments work best for their lives and needs, from reusable underwear to plus-size incontinence products. As your condition progresses, you may even find that you need to shift what protective garments you use. No matter your degree of incontinence, there’s an incontinence product that will help you maximize control over your life and minimize diabetes’ ability to dictate your life.
If you have further questions about dealing with diabetes-related incontinence, contact your doctor about what next steps are appropriate for your situation.