Incontinence and Diabetes: Is There a Link?

Chad Birt

Written by Chad Birt on Mon Apr 24 2023.

Couple hugging on the couch.

About 1 in 10 Americans have diabetes –– a group of diseases that affect the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar. Diabetes can present various side effects, but one that’s rarely discussed is incontinence.

Though more research needs to be done, a growing body of evidence suggests there’s a correlation between high blood sugar and the accidental release of urine or fecal matter. For example, one study found that incontinence occurs in about 39% of women with diabetes but only 26% of women without diabetes.

Does Diabetes Cause Incontinence?

Diabetes doesn’t cause incontinence itself, but as the disease worsens, it can affect your body in several ways, including:

Weight gain

Excess weight puts pressure on your bladder, increasing the risk of leaks.

Nerve damage

High blood sugar can cause peripheral neuropathy (damage to the peripheral nerves). These nerves help control your bowels and bladder, but if they don’t work properly, you’re more likely to have accidents.

Medication side effects

Some medications used to manage diabetes cause diarrhea and fecal incontinence.

Compromised immunity

Diabetes affects the immune system’s ability to defend your body from viruses and bacteria. As a result, you’re more likely to experience urinary tract infections (UTIs), which can trigger incontinence.

Increased thirst

Diabetes makes you thirsty. It’s important to stay hydrated throughout the day, but drinking more causes you to urinate more.

What Types of Incontinence Affect People with Diabetes?

Several types of incontinence can affect people with diabetes, including:

  • Stress incontinence (leakage caused by excess pressure on the bladder)

  • Urge incontinence (an uncontrolled need to urinate)

  • Overflow incontinence (leakage caused by a full bladder)

  • Functional incontinence (nerve or muscle damage that causes leakage)

  • Transient incontinence (temporary leakage caused by medication or lifestyle factors)

It’s important to meet with your doctor, even if your symptoms are mild or occur infrequently. Identifying the underlying cause can improve your quality of life and prevent the problem from getting worse. 

How is Diabetes-Related Incontinence Diagnosed?

The only way to know if your incontinence is diabetes-related is to make an appointment with your doctor. 

Consider keeping a bladder journal in the days leading up to your appointment. Noting when your incontinence occurs and if any specific things cause it can help your doctor pinpoint the source. 

To diagnose incontinence, your doctor reviews your medical records, asks about your symptoms, and completes a physical exam. They also order lab tests, including urinalysis, to check for problems that might cause incontinence, like a urinary tract infection. 

How is Diabetes-Related Incontinence Treated?

Treatment of diabetes-related incontinence depends on the severity of your symptoms and how well you manage them. Your doctor might recommend:

Losing Weight

Diabetes causes many people to gain weight. However, losing just five or 10 pounds can reduce pressure on your bladder and pelvic floor, reducing urinary leakage. 

Kegel Exercises

Kegel exercises strengthen your pelvic floor –– the muscles that support your bladder and bowels. A strong pelvic floor can help prevent incontinence, treat pelvic organ prolapse, and improve sexual well-being.

Recommended reading: How to Do Kegel Exercises

Eat Healthily

Eat snacks and meals that have fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. Avoid things that can irritate your bladder, like spicy or acidic foods.

“Limit refined carbs and sugary treats,” said Dr. Elizabeth Landsverk, a geriatrician based in San Francisco, California. “This will help to manage fluid retention, which is released at night when you’re lying down.” 

Manage Your Diabetes

Poorly managed diabetes increases the risk of more serious health problems, including peripheral neuropathy (nerve damage). Keeping your blood sugar within the optimal range ensures your bladder and pelvic food muscles stay healthy.

Incontinence Products

Sometimes, accidents happen. If you’re concerned about leaks while working or running errands, incontinence products like adult diapers, adult pull-ups, and booster pads can keep you clean and dry.

Scheduled Bathroom Breaks

Regularly scheduled bathroom breaks can help “train” your bladder to hold more urine.

If you have urge incontinence, map out public toilets before leaving home. That way, you won’t have to panic if you need to go suddenly.

Where Can I Find Products for Diabetes-Related Incontinence?

If you or your loved one have incontinence made worse by diabetes, the right incontinence products can make life that much easier. 

Here at Carewell, we carry dozens of incontinence products from renowned manufacturers like Abena, McKesson, Prevail, and Depends.

Have questions? Need help figuring out which product will best meet your needs? Get in touch!

Our highly knowledgeable Care Specialists speak English and Spanish and can make personalized recommendations that align with your budget and needs. Call (800) 696-CARE or send an email to

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Chad Birt
Chad Birt

Chad Birt is a freelance medical writer who resides in Astoria, Oregon. When he isn't behind a keyboard, you can find him hiking, camping, or birdwatching with his wife Ella and their two dogs, Diane and Thoreau.