HomeBladder DisordersSmoking and Incontinence

Well documented studies have shown smoking causes an increased risk for many serious diseases such as lung cancer, heart disease, and emphysema. What is not so well known and it only recently being studied is the link between smoking and urinary incontinence. CondomCatheters is primarily focused on male incontinence issues. With this in mind, the latest Center for Disease Control figures show that there are over 45 million smokers in the United States with 21.5% of all men smoking compared to only 17.3% of women. While the vast majority of bladder control problems affect females, the sheer volume of male smokers makes them far more susceptible to smoking induced bladder weakness and control issues then the rest of the male population.  Why quit smoking? In addition to the many known health issues, smoking can lead to further bouts of male incontinence for two reasons: muscle strain and bladder irritation.

It is little wonder that women commonly suffer from minor incontinence issues. Pregnancy and childbirth can put a serious strain on the pelvic muscles and the detrusor muscle, which contracts and expands to control bladder function. Men may strain the bladder from “holding it in” too long during sporting events or work. Smoking can compound the problem of urinary incontinence due to the irritating (and often racking) cough that often comes from a lifetime of smoking.

smoking and incontinenceA strong cough can put incredible strain on the stomach and pelvic muscles and cause the bladder to expel urine uncontrollably due to increased intra-abdominal pressure. Over time, a weakened bladder may become susceptible to overflow incontinence or OAB and even begin to leak during laughter or light straining such as lifting a heavy object. Besides Kegel exercises, which have been used for decades to strengthen the muscles associated with urination, quitting smoking is one of the best ways to keep these muscles strong. Bladder muscles naturally weaken as we age so it is crucial to not compound the problem by smoking.

In general, the chemicals found in cigarettes (especially nicotine) and their effects on the bladder are not as easily understood. Animal testing has shown that nicotine may stimulate the release of certain chemicals which can trigger bladder spasms. Other studies are researching the possibility that nicotine acts as a sedative and relaxes the bladder. Still other research is seeking to prove that nicotine and other chemicals found in cigarettes act as an irritant to the bladder. What is known it that smokers are far more likely to suffer from incontinence issues even if the “how” is not entirely understood.

If the minor problem of incontinence is not enough to convince a smoker to quit then consider the increased risk of bladder cancer. A 2009 study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute shows not only a rise in bladder cancer across the entire population, but smokers were five times as likely to suffer from bladder cancer as non-smokers. The minor annoyance of always needing a bathroom is nothing compared to chemo-therapy treatments and surgeries. Talk to a doctor or contact a support group and vow to kick the tobacco habit this year!

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