Among women in particular, morbid obesity greatly increases the risk of urinary stress incontinence. A large, heavy abdomen and relaxation of the pelvic muscles caused by the extra weight are thought to weaken the bladder’s valve, allowing the leakage of urine with coughing, sneezing, or laughing. Though urinary incontinence may occur regardless of age, gender, or BMI, it tends to be more severe in the obese.
Obesity is also a major risk factor for fecal incontinence, as its severity increases with BMI. Age is also a factor. A young obese individual may have strong enough sphincter muscles to voluntarily regulate the process of excretion. Muscles weaken as we age, making elderly obese persons more likely to face incontinence.
There is also a co-relation between diabetes and incontinence. Given that obese individuals are often diabetic, their risk of incontinence is higher. Specifically, diabetic women taking insulin are at greater risk than diabetics not dependent on insulin.
Weight loss and incontinence
Just as weight gain can worsen existing symptoms of incontinence, weight loss can help reverse the situation. Thus, losing weight allows patients to better manage and control not only incontinence but also diabetes, hypertension, and arthritis.
Urinary incontinence and bariatric surgery
Bariatric surgery has been found to improve urinary stress incontinence. Less weight is placed on the bladder, and other physical changes take place to improve this condition. In fact, research shows that obese patients who underwent gastric bypass surgery had significantly fewer incidents of stress incontinence. In fact, a 2000 study of 500 patients showed 97 percent resolution of urinary stress incontinence in patients after weight loss surgery.