Updated 27 February 2015

Weight loss may prevent urinary incontinence in diabetic women

Overweight women with diabetes may be able to cut their risk of urinary incontinence if they lose some weight, a new study suggests.


Overweight women with diabetes may be able to cut their risk of urinary incontinence if they lose some weight, a new study suggests.

Some studies have found that when overweight women drop even a modest amount of weight, they reduce their risk of incontinence. Type 2 diabetes is also a risk factor for incontinence, regardless of weight.

In a recent randomized study, overweight diabetic women assigned to a diet and exercise group lost an average of 7.7kg over a year. Over a year, 10.5% of women in the diet-and-exercise group developed new-onset urinary incontinence, compared to 14% of women who had not made lifestyle changes.

"Overweight and obese women with type 2 diabetes should consider weight loss as a way to reduce their risk of developing urinary incontinence," lead researcher Dr Suzanne Phelan, of California Polytechnic State University, told Reuters Health by email.

The findings, reported online in the Journal of Urology, are based on 2 739 middle-aged and older women who were part of a larger diabetes study.

For every two kilogrammes a woman lost, the odds of developing incontinence dipped by 3%, according to the report.


On the other hand, weight loss did not seem to help women who already had problems with urine leakage, the authors found.

"We aren't sure why weight loss appeared to impact prevention but not resolution of urinary incontinence," Dr Phelan said.

It's possible, she said, there may have been too few women with existing urinary incontinence to detect an effect of weight loss.

It's also unclear how to account for the drop in incontinence risk – it might be related to the exercise or the blood sugar reduction, for instance.

(Amy Norton, Reuters Health, February 2012) 

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Prenevin Govender completed his MBChB at the University of Cape Town in 2001. He obtained his Fellowship of the College of Urologists in 2009 and graduated with distinction for a Masters in Medicine from the University of Cape Town in 2010. His special interests include laparoscopic, pelvic organ prolapse and urinary incontinence surgery. He consults full-time at Life Kingsbury Hospital in Claremont.

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