Learning about incontinence

The most common types of incontinence are:

  • stress
  • urge
  • overflow
  • mixed

Stress incontinence

Stress incontinence is by far the most common type of incontinence, and it can be effectively managed, treated, or cured.

Stress incontinence refers to bladder leakage resulting from weak pelvic muscles. Coughing, sneezing, laughing, having sex, lifting heavy objects, or any movement that causes stress or pressure on the bladder can cause stress-related urine leakage. Unlike urge incontinence, stress incontinence is not accompanied by an urge to urinate. Stress incontinence typically affects more women than men.

Urge incontinence

Like stress incontinence, urge incontinence, also known as overactive bladder, can be very effectively managed. It is caused by damaged nerves sending signals to the bladder to contract, even when the bladder isn't full. This results in an urgent and frequent need to urinate, typically 8 or more times during a 24-hour period. Frequent nighttime urinating is also a symptom of urge incontinence and is defined as waking with a need to urinate 2 or more times during the night. Urge incontinence is the most common form of incontinence in men. Although urge incontinence is the most common type of incontinence in the elderly, it is not considered a normal part of aging.

Overflow incontinence

With overflow incontinence, you may feel as if your bladder is always partly full. And you may urinate only in small amounts or dribble urine. This is caused by an inability to completely empty the bladder, with the result that it overflows, resulting in urine leakage. It is often reported by people with blocked urethras or bladder damage, and by men who have prostate gland problems. As with stress and urge incontinence, there are a number of options available to help you regain control.

Mixed incontinence

Some people with urge incontinence also experience stress incontinence and vice versa, but this doesn't mean that the causes are necessarily related. Your health care professional can help you determine the causes and the best course of action.