Urge Incontinence and IBS

If you suffer from urge incontinence alongside irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), it is natural to wonder if they are related. Here is a brief overview of urge incontinence and any possible overlap with IBS.

Midsection of a woman with IBS sitting on the toilet
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What Is Urge Incontinence?

Urge incontinence is a urinary disorder in which a person experiences sudden urinary urgency that results in involuntary passage of urine. Symptoms can occur without warning during the day and cause nighttime waking and bed-wetting. Environmental stimuli, such as drinking or touching water, or hearing it running, can serve to trigger symptoms.

The causes of urge incontinence vary widely and include bladder disease or infection, other medical conditions, particularly those that affect nerve and muscle functioning, and medication side effects. In some cases, the cause of urge incontinence cannot be identified. Urge incontinence can be experienced by both men and women but is more common in women. The risk of urge incontinence increases with age.

Overlap of Urge Incontinence and IBS

Although researchers have found that a high percentage of IBS sufferers also suffer from bladder problems, specific research on an overlap between urge incontinence and IBS is quite scarce. One small study looked at the frequency of "lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS)" in women diagnosed with IBS. The study results included the finding of a significantly higher rate of urinary storage problems, including urge incontinence, in the women with IBS as compared to healthy control subjects.

What to Do If You Have Both

If you are experiencing urge incontinence alongside your IBS, you need to make sure to have a complete medical work-up. Unlike IBS, urge incontinence does have many identifiable causes, and it is important to have a firm diagnosis as a first step in establishing a treatment plan.

Treatment options for urge incontinence include medications, bladder retraining, Kegel exercises, biofeedback, and surgery. If your healthcare provider recommends a medication, be sure that they know about your IBS to ensure that the medication is not going to worsen your bowel symptoms.

Urge incontinence and IBS may have some common ground in terms of foods that could possibly exacerbate symptoms. Therefore, it may be wise to avoid spicy or acidic foods and drinks that contain caffeine or are carbonated.

There is some evidence that the symptoms of both conditions may be worsened by anxiety. Therefore, it may be helpful to look into mind/body treatment options that are aimed at anxiety reduction and stress management.

If your healthcare provider concludes that your bowel and bladder symptoms are related to pelvic floor dysfunction, physical therapy and/or biofeedback might be options to explore.

3 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Guo YJ, Ho CH, Chen SC, Yang SS, Chiu HM, Huang KH. Lower urinary tract symptoms in women with irritable bowel syndrome. Int J Urol. 2010;17(2):175-81. doi:10.1111/j.1442-2042.2009.02442.x

  3. Song SW, Park SJ, Kim SH, Kang SG. Relationship between irritable bowel syndrome, worry and stress in adolescent girls. J Korean Med Sci. 2012;27(11):1398-404. doi:10.3346/jkms.2012.27.11.1398

Additional Reading

By Barbara Bolen, PhD
Barbara Bolen, PhD, is a licensed clinical psychologist and health coach. She has written multiple books focused on living with irritable bowel syndrome.