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Urinary Incontinence in Diabetes Prevented with Weight Loss

Feb 8, 2012

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

In a recent randomized study, overweight diabetic women assigned to a diet and exercise group lost an average of 17 pounds 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. Other 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.

Lead researcher Dr. Suzanne Phelan, of California Polytechnic State University wrote, “Overweight and obese women with type 2 diabetes should consider weight loss as a way to reduce their risk of developing urinary incontinence.”

The findings are based on 2,739 middle-aged and older women who were part of a larger diabetes study. For every two pounds 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.

Reported online January 19th in the Journal of Urology J Urol 2012.