What Are The Different Types of Urinary Incontinence?

What Are The Different Types of Urinary Incontinence?

There are four main types of urinary incontinence: stress incontinence, overflow incontinence, overactive bladder, and functional incontinence. While you may have just learned the different types of urinary incontinence, we’ll bet that—regardless of the type of urinary incontinence you’re experiencing—you’re probably frustrated and uncomfortable. 

Urinary incontinence affects men and women, but primarily women. The most obvious sign of incontinence is bladder control issues resulting in accidental urine leakage. While you may be embarrassed and want to understand the different types of urinary incontinence symptoms on your own, you may need to contact a medical professional.

What are 4 Types of Urinary Incontinence?

#1. Stress incontinence

Most commonly, individuals, specifically women, suffer from stress urinary incontinence. The interesting thing about stress incontinence is that it’s not caused by emotional or mental stress. A physical strain on the bladder—for example, being overweight or going through childbirth—is typically what causes stress incontinence.

Can stress cause incontinence?

Though it has the word “stress” in the name, stress incontinence is not related to psychological stress.

What causes stress incontinence?

Stress incontinence happens when physical movement or activity — such as coughing, laughing, sneezing, running, or heavy lifting — puts pressure (stress) on your bladder, causing you to leak urine. 

How to stop stress incontinence

Your doctor may recommend a combination of strategies to treat incontinence, which can vary depending on the cause. Behavioral therapies may help you eliminate or lessen episodes of stress incontinence as well. Treatments for stress incontinence can include: 

  • Pelvic floor muscle exercises. Your provider or physical therapist can help you learn how to do kegel exercises to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles and urinary sphincter. A technique called biofeedback can be used along with kegel exercises to make them more effective. Biofeedback involves the use of pressure sensors or electrical stimulation to reinforce the proper muscle contractions.
  • Fluid consumption. Your provider may recommend how much and when you should consume fluids during the day and evening. However, don't limit what you drink so much that you become dehydrated. Your provider may also suggest that you avoid caffeinated, carbonated, and alcoholic beverages, which may irritate and affect bladder function in some people. If you find that using fluid schedules and avoiding certain beverages significantly improve leakage, you'll have to decide whether making these changes in your diet are worth it.
  • Healthy lifestyle changes. Quitting smoking, losing excess weight or treating a chronic cough will lessen your risk of stress incontinence and improve your symptoms.
  • Bladder training. Your provider might recommend a schedule for toileting if you have mixed incontinence. More frequent voiding of the bladder may reduce the number or severity of urge incontinence episodes

    #2. Overflow incontinence

    Similar to a glass or cup, your bladder can only hold so much urine. In some cases, your body may produce more urine than it can store.  As a result, your bladder may leak urine. This type of urinary incontinence is more common in men, and it may be associated with prostate problems.

    What is overflow incontinence?

    When the bladder is too full, resulting in leaks or dribbling, you may be experiencing overflow incontinence. This can happen because you’re overproducing urine or you’re unable to empty your bladder. 

    What causes overflow incontinence?

    Overflow incontinence happens when the bladder doesn’t empty properly and leaks out. This occurs when the bladder never empties properly and fills up more quickly due to the residual volume. You may find it difficult to start to pass water, and even when you have started, the flow is weak and slow. You might find that you dribble after you have finished passing water. Perhaps you dribble urine all the time, even without noticing. 

    How to stop overflow incontinence

    Timed urination can help keep the bladder empty. Also, double voiding, if you can, may also help empty the bladder.

    #3. Overactive bladder

    We all know someone who seems to constantly need a pee break (and maybe it’s you). Individuals who feel a frequent urge to urinate may have an overactive bladder. With this type of urinary incontinence, bladder muscles can contract and make us feel like we need to urinate, even if we have an empty bladder. Physical problems or bladder infections may cause an overactive bladder.

    What is an overactive bladder?

    Overactive bladder (OAB) is the name for a group of urinary symptoms. It is not a disease. The most common symptom is a sudden, uncontrolled need or urge to urinate. Some people will leak urine when they feel this urge. Another symptom is the need to pass urine many times during the day and night. OAB is basically the feeling that you’ve “gotta’ go” to the bathroom urgently and too much.

    What causes an overactive bladder?

    Overactive bladder describes a combination of symptoms that can include a frequent urge to urinate and waking up at night to urinate. Causes can include weak muscles, nerve damage, use of medications, alcohol or caffeine, infection, and being overweight. It can also be a result of pregnancy and childbirth.

    How long does an overactive bladder last?

    More often than not, OAB is a chronic condition. It can get better, but it may not ever go away completely. 

    How can I stop my overactive bladder?

    To start with, doctors often recommend exercises such as kegels to strengthen pelvic floor muscles and give you more control over your urine flow.

    #4. Functional incontinence

    Functional incontinence is often a result of other diseases, such as arthritis or dementia. Conditions such as these may hinder your ability to get to the restroom, and as a result, you may have accidents.

    What is functional incontinence?

    Functional incontinence occurs when some obstacle or disability makes it hard for you to reach or use a toilet in time to urinate. 

    What causes functional incontinence?

    It is often caused by a problem with walking (such as needing a walker or crutches) that prevents you from reaching a toilet in time to urinate.

    Signs of Urinary Incontinence

    Urinary incontinence may be inconvenient and affect your quality of life, but it’s not a disease in and of itself. However, it can be a symptom of an underlying problem. To identify the underlying issue, you may first need to determine whether you actually have urinary incontinence. Here are some signs of urinary incontinence:

    - Frequent and uncontrollable urge to urinate

    - Urine leaking during exercise

    - Urinating as a result of sneezing or coughing

    - Frequent urination 

    Causes of Urinary Incontinence

    In most cases, urinary incontinence is caused by another condition. Rather than being classified as a disease itself, it’s usually viewed as a symptom of something else. So, what causes urinary incontinence? Here are some typical issues that can cause urinary incontinence:

    - Childbirth Pregnancy
    - Obesity
    - Overactive bladder muscles
    - Bladder infection
    - Enlarged prostate

    What Is the Most Common Type of Incontinence?

    The most common type of incontinence is stress incontinence. Earlier, we introduced stress incontinence and mentioned that it mainly affects women. If you are experiencing leakage of urine while exercising, coughing, sneezing, laughing, lifting objects, or other common bodily movements, you may have stress incontinence. 

    What Happens if Incontinence Is Left Untreated?

    Neglecting our health can affect our quality of life. Urinary incontinence that goes untreated may impact physical health, cause depression, and can severely affect relationships.

    Does Drinking More Water Help Incontinence?

    If you are experiencing urinary incontinence, you might be avoiding drinking water, thinking it will only result in leakage. However, drinking more water can actually help individuals experiencing urinary incontinence. Dehydrating yourself may cause urine to be more concentrated and more irritating to the bladder. If you are scared to drink water for fear that you may have an accident, try the following approach:

    - A few hours before bed, cut off your water intake
    - Before going to bed, use the bathroom
    - Frequently sip on four- to eight-ounce cups of water throughout the day


    Can Incontinence Be Corrected?

    Incontinence doesn’t have to rule your life. While anyone can experience urinary incontinence, older women are most vulnerable. The good news is that incontinence can be managed.

    How to Manage Urinary Incontinence

    Whether you have an official diagnosis or not, you can take steps toward managing urinary incontinence. The treatment recommended for incontinence usually depends on the type of incontinence you have. It can also depend on underlying conditions and causes. In some cases, doctors may recommend less invasive treatments to start, and those treatments may work well enough that you feel cured. Here are some ways that you can manage urinary incontinence:

    - Bladder training: Oftentimes, urinary incontinence can cause you to feel the urge to use the restroom. This can be exhausting, especially when it’s happening every 10 minutes. If you are getting frequent urges to urinate, you might want to try delaying your trip to the restroom. Sounds stressful, right? When you’re practicing bladder training, it can be especially comforting to wear leakproof undies.

    - Fluid and diet management: Certain foods or liquids may be making urinary incontinence worse. You may want to try cutting back your consumption of alcohol, caffeine, or acidic foods. While you will want to drink water regularly, you should avoid chugging large amounts of water at once. Water consumption should be steady throughout the day. In some cases, losing weight may help reduce the severity of urinary incontinence.

    The Last Word on Urinary Incontinence

    A properly functioning human body is essential for quality of life. However, as we age, our bodies may not function as well as they once did. There are several reasons you may be experiencing urinary incontinence, and while you’ll need to determine the root cause, it shouldn’t affect your quality of life.


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