The Main Types of Urinary Incontinence

What is urinary incontinence?

Urine, which is produced by the kidneys, is stored in the bladder and then discharged through the urethra. Urinary incontinence is defined as the involuntary and accidental loss of urine. Urinary incontinence is a common condition that can affect women in all stages of life. It is not a sign of old age. Learn to identify the main types of urinary incontinence and recognize their characteristics.

Urinary stress incontinence

Urinary stress incontinence is the most common form of urinary incontinence. It is defined as the accidental leaking of a variable amount of urine as the result of some physical effort, such as sneezing, laughing or lifting something heavy. These leaks are not preceded by a need to urinate; they occur suddenly, when physical effort exerts pressure on the abdomen. 

Stress Urinary Incontinence: Symptoms and Causes

Urge incontinence

Urge incontinence is commonly called overactive bladder. It results in a discharge of urine after a sudden and pressing need to empty the bladder. The problem exists because the bladder is contracting unnecessarily and too quickly.

In this type of urinary incontinence, the muscle that surrounds the bladder (the detrusor) contracts even though the bladder is not full. This results in a pressing, urgent and frequent need to urinate. Quite often, it is hard to identify any specific cause for this condition. On the other hand, the type and quantity of liquids consumed have a very strong influence on the frequency of urination. For example, caffeine‐based and alcoholic beverages aggravate incontinence, which is why the first method of treatment often focuses on some lifestyle changes. Medications may also prove to be helpful.

Overflow incontinence

This type of urinary incontinence occurs when there is an “overflow” of urine in the bladder because the bladder is not emptying completely. As a result, urine accumulates in the bladder until the bladder becomes completely distended and urine leaks out. This results in drops of urine dribbling out all day long. The goal of treatment is to promote more effective bladder emptying.

Functional incontinence

Functional incontinence occurs when a person has mobility problems. The bladder functions properly but a health problem (such as difficulty moving, impaired vision, Parkinson's disease, etc.) prevents the person from getting to a toilet in time. In this case, it is important to properly identify the health problems that are interfering with mobility.

Mixed urinary incontinence

Mixed incontinence is generally a combination of stress incontinence and urge incontinence. Symptoms are a combination of both types of incontinence with each type presenting in varying degrees. Treatment targets the most dominant type of urinary incontinence or the one which is easiest to manage.

Please note that this information is intended to promote communication with your healthcare professional and is not intended to replace medical evaluation and diagnosis. If you have a problem with urinary incontinence, mention it to your healthcare professional.