What Causes Loss of Bladder Control When Coughing?

Bladder control problems are issues that happen to both men and women. Many women will leak urine when they laugh hard, cough or sneeze. Men also have this difficulty, but the problem is much more common in women. The leakage can be a small or a large problem. Physicians believe that about half of all adult women will have experience this issue at one time or another in their lives. The causes of the lack of bladder control when coughing are varied and will determine the treatment.

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.

Urinary Tract Infections

A urinary tract infection can happen anywhere along the urinary tract, from the bladder, kidneys, ureters and the urethra, according to MedlinePlus.com 1. Urinary tract infections are caused by bacteria and women tend to get them more often than men, because the urethra is shorter and closer to the anus.

Factors such as diabetes, bowel incontinence, enlarged prostate, kidney stones and pregnancy will all increase the risk of developing a urinary tract infection 1. The infection will irritate the nerves of the bladder and cause the bladder to contract without warning. This type of incontinence will go away once the infection has been cured.

Pelvic Support

The pelvic organs are held in place by tissues and muscles. According to The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, support problems will happen when these tissues are stressed or weakened by pregnancy, childbirth or aging. As the organs sag out of place, they press upon the vagina making it more difficult to pass urine or result in leakage during coughing and sneezing.

Structural Abnormalities

Specific structural abnormalities will also cause both men and women to leak urine when coughing or sneezing, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Some of these abnormalities resolve spontaneously, such as pregnancy or a stool impaction. Others, such as weakness of the sphincter, pelvic prolapse or abnormalities in the structure of the urinary tract, require treatment in order to resolve. Weakening of the sphincter, the circular muscles of the bladder that are responsible for opening and closing the urethra, can happen following prostate surgery in men, vaginal surgery in women or with advanced age.


Certain medications may also be responsible for leakage of urine during sneezing or coughing, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Medications, such as diuretics which increase the amount of urine production, may cause leakage. The physician will want to change the dosage or type of medication in order to relieve the symptoms.

Neuromuscular Disorder

According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, both men and women may suffer from loss of bladder control while coughing if they also have had certain neurological conditions, such as multiple sclerosis or stroke. These conditions happen because the signals from the brain and the spinal cord do not connect properly with the bladder. Diabetes can also be a cause in both men and women.