Does Incontinence Ever Clear up on Its Own?

A fellow caregiver asked...

Does incontinence ever clear up on its own?

Expert Answer

Dr. Leslie Kernisan is the author of a popular blog and podcast at She is also a clinical instructor in the University of California, San Francisco, Division of Geriatrics.

Yes, it's possible for incontinence to reverse itself -- but it depends on the cause. Temporary urinary incontinence can be caused by such situations as a urinary tract infection, constipation, a side effect of a new medication, vaginal irritation, or pregnancy or childbirth. The problem sometimes goes away when the situation clears up. Or it may need to be treated by a physician, then it quickly resolves.

The types of incontinence that usually affect older adults, however, tend to be more chronic and require medical care to diagnose and treat. Causes can include structural problems with the urinary system or bowels caused by aging or disease, a prostate problem blocking flow, a history of surgery, or the effects of a systemic disease such as diabetes or stroke.

It's important to have incontinence investigated by a physician for two reasons: first, so the underlying cause can be pinpointed and treated; and second, so you can get advice on how to cope with the problem from day to day for as long as is needed.