Having problems with bladder function can affect your daily activities and may cause embarrassing accidents. Diabetes can increase the risk of bladder dysfunction and can lead to the start of bladder problems at a younger than average age.
Diabetes results when excess sugar or glucose builds up in the blood. This sugar can damage nerves. When the nerves that control the bladder are damaged, urinary incontinence can develop.
• Overactive Bladder – The nerves that control the bladder can cause the bladder to spasm, which can lead to a sudden, strong need to urinate. Sudden urges can happen eight times a day or more than two times at night. Overactive bladder can cause urine to leak or may result in full urinary incontinence.
• Decreased bladder sensation – Damaged nerves may result in reduced bladder sensation which can result in little or no warning when the bladder is full.
• Poor muscle control – Urine flows out of the bladder through a tube called the urethra. The urethra is surrounded by muscles that tighten around the tube to keep urine from flowing out. If the nerves to these muscles are damaged, the muscles may become weak and allow urine to leak out. In other cases, the muscles may stay clamped down when you try to relax to urinate.
• Urine Retention – Nerve damage can result in weakened bladder muscles that cannot contract correctly. When this happens, the bladder may not empty completely. Leftover urine in the bladder can result in a bladder or urinary tract infection. If the bladder loses the ability to contract, it can also fill to the point that it overflows causing incontinence.
High blood sugar levels can also cause other urinary problems. When sugar levels are high, the kidneys work harder than normal trying to flush the sugar out of the blood. This can cause a larger than normal amount of urine, which can make other bladder problems more apparent.
High blood sugar levels can also increase the risk of urinary tract infections as bacteria feed on the available sugar. Infections can cause pain or burning in the bladder or urethra and can lead to more frequent urination.
If you have diabetes, you can reduce your risk of urinary incontinence problems by keeping your sugar levels under control. If you have incontinence issues, talk to your health care provider to learn what treatments are available to reduce urinary incontinence symptoms.
National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse. Sexual and Urologic Problems of Diabetes. Web. September 24, 2012.
The Simone Foundation for Continence. About Incontinence – Contributing Factors – Diabetes. Web. September 24, 2012.
About.com: Type 2 Diabetes. Diabetes and Urination. Elizabeth Woolley. Web. September 24, 2012.
Reviewed September 26, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith