Urinary incontinence the loss of bladder control is a common and often embarrassing problem. The severity ranges from occasionally leaking urine when you cough or sneeze to having an urge to urinate that's so sudden and strong you don't get to a toilet in time.

If urinary incontinence affects your daily activities, don't hesitate to see your doctor. For most people, simple lifestyle changes or medical treatment can ease discomfort or stop urinary incontinence.

Some people experience occasional, minor leaks of urine. Others wet their clothes frequently.

Types of urinary incontinence include:

Stress incontinence. Urine leaks when you exert pressure on your bladder by coughing, sneezing, laughing, exercising or lifting something heavy.

Urge incontinence. You have a sudden, intense urge to urinate followed by an involuntary loss of urine. You may need to urinate often, including throughout the night. Urge incontinence may be caused by a minor condition, such as infection, or a more severe condition such as neurologic disorder or diabetes.

Overflow incontinence. You experience frequent or constant dribbling of urine due to a bladder that doesn't empty completely.

Functional incontinence. A physical or mental impairment keeps you from making it to the toilet in time. For example, if you have severe arthritis, you may not be able to unbutton your pants quickly enough.

Mixed incontinence. You experience more than one type of urinary incontinence.

Treatment for urinary incontinence depends on the type of incontinence, its severity and the underlying cause. A combination of treatments may be needed. Your doctor is likely to suggest the least invasive treatments first and move on to other options only if these techniques fail.

If other treatments aren't working, several surgical procedures can treat the problems that cause urinary incontinence:

Sling procedures. Strips of your body's tissue, synthetic material or mesh are used to create a pelvic sling around your urethra and the area of thickened muscle where the bladder connects to the urethra (bladder neck). The sling helps keep the urethra closed, especially when you cough or sneeze. This procedure is used to treat stress incontinence.

Bladder neck suspension. This procedure is designed to provide support to your urethra and bladder neck — an area of thickened muscle where the bladder connects to the urethra. It involves an abdominal incision, so it's done during general or spinal anesthesia.

Prolapse surgery. In women with mixed incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse, surgery may include a combination of a sling procedure and prolapse surgery.

Artificial urinary sphincter. In men, a small, fluid-filled ring is implanted around the bladder neck to keep the urinary sphincter shut until you're ready to urinate. To urinate, you press a valve implanted under your skin that causes the ring to deflate and allows urine from your bladder to flow. Artificial urinary sphincters are particularly helpful for men whose incontinence is associated with treatment of prostate cancer or an enlarged prostate gland.

Urinary incontinence isn't a disease, it's a symptom. It can be caused by everyday habits, underlying medical conditions or physical problems. A thorough evaluation by your doctor can help determine what's behind your incontinence.

Temporary urinary incontinence

Certain drinks, foods and medications can act as diuretics stimulating your bladder and increasing your volume of urine. They include:

  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine
  • Decaffeinated tea and coffee
  • Carbonated drinks
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Corn syrup
  • Foods that are high in spice, sugar or acid, especially citrus fruits
  • Heart and blood pressure medications, sedatives, and muscle relaxants
  • Large doses of vitamins B or C