Understanding Rheumatoid Arthritis and Urinary Incontinence

In the UK, more than 10 million people have Arthritis. Rheumatoid Arthritis is a long term condition that affects every day life.

What is Rheumatoid Arthritis and What Causes It?

In people with Rheumatoid Arthritis, the body’s immune system targets affected joints. This can lead to frequent pain and swelling. Annoyingly, these symptoms can also worsen following rest. The wrists and hands are typically affected. This problem can result in low red blood cell count and inflammation around parts of the body, on serious occasions the lungs and heart. It is common for those with Rheumatoid Arthritis to develop issues with other body organs and tissues.

Unfortunately, the cause of rheumatoid arthritis is not known. Experts believe the condition is likely caused by both genetic and environmental reasons. 

Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis:

  • Fatigue
  • Joint stiffness
  • Joint tenderness
  • Limping
  • Joint warmth
  • Loss of motion
  • Anemia
  • Joint deformity
  • Frequent Fever
woman with arthritis incontinence

Rheumatoid Arthritis can cause an increased risk of many other health conditions. These include heart attacks, strokes and inflammation of other areas of the body. One complication of Rheumatoid Arthritis we might not expect is urinary incontinence.

Do you have Rheumatoid Arthritis and Incontinence?

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Rheumatoid Arthritis and Urinary Incontinence: What is the Link?

It can seem strange for there to be a link between Arthritis and incontinence. However, one study found that 38% of patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis reported difficulty controlling their urine. Arthritis does not directly affect the bladder for most people. It is the complications that Rheumatoid Arthritis causes that is the blame.

In many people, incontinence is caused by restriction of movement. Functional incontinence is therefore the most commonly associated with Rheumatoid Arthritis, as it can cause mobility problems. This can result in people getting to the toilet too late. Stiffness in the hands can also make removing underwear and clothing difficult.

Constipation often occurs due to people with Rheumatoid Arthritis not being active, or the fact that they are limiting their fluid intake. Insufficient exercise is actually a common cause of constipation. Having a history of straining while having bowel movements can weaken the pelvic floor muscles, which are vital for bladder control. This condition is called stress incontinence.

Infections and bladder pain are increasingly well-recognised complications of Rheumatoid Arthritis. It is associated with a high incidence of UTIs, particular in seniors. In general, people with autoimmune diseases such as Rheumatoid Arthritis have a higher risk of lower urinary tract symptoms. Studies have also shown that there is a link between Rheumatoid Arthritis and bladder pain syndrome/interstitial cystitis. Interstitial cystitis causes urinary urgency and frequency. It can also cause pelvic pain and Nocturnal Enuresis.

Recommended Urinary Incontinence Products


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TENA Comfort Mini

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Starting from £3.10

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Lille Suprem Fit Maxi

  • Designed for women with lighter urinary incontinence
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  • Very close fit

Starting from £8.02

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iD Expert Light

  • Designed for women with lighter urinary incontinence
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  • Very close fit

Starting from £1.57

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TENA Pants Maxi

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  • For heavy to severe incontinence
  • Body-close fit
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Starting from £10.75

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iD Pants Normal

  • Designed for women with lighter urinary incontinence
  • Discreet and Small
  • Very close fit

Starting from £7.38

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TENA Men Active Fit

  • Pull up pants for moderate to heavy incontinence
  • Ideal for men with an active lifestyle
  • Wide distinctive waistband
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Starting from £7.80

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Do you have stress incontinence caused by Rheumatoid Arthritis? Read about how to manage stress incontinence when running

Tips Treating Urinary Incontinence

Do Pelvic Floor Exercises

There is a reason you may hear about pelvic floor exercises endless times. They really do work for strengthening the pelvic floor muscles and are particularly ideal for stress incontinence.


Watch your Diet

It is vital to watch your diet when managing incontinence. Some irritants such as spicy food and caffeinated beverages should be avoided.


Talk to a Doctor

On some occasions, medication and surgery is necessary. If natural remedies do not work, you should talk to a Doctor about other options. You can read about bladder surgery for stress incontinence here. 


For more tips on managing urinary incontinence, you can visit our living with incontinence section.

Originally posted 2019-03-19 14:15:14.


  1. Helen McAndrew Pearson Reply

    It is worth noting that bowel and bladder urinary problems and muscle weakness in the lower half of the body can also be as a result of the slow onset or immediate effect of cauda equina syndrome where the nerves at the base of the spine become compressed. This is a medical emergency but sometimes misdiagnosed.

  2. Malcolm Reply

    Hi I have a few chronic health conditions and still wear nappies and plastic pants when sleeping for enuresis. I have now developed psoriatic arthritis which causes severe joint stiffness and poor mobility in the night to early morning. Due to pain I’m about to put on methotrexate the chemotherapy drug which I believe could make me more incontinent than I am already.

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