What is Urinary Incontinence?

Urinary incontinence (UI), sometimes referred to as urine incontinence and incontinence of urine, is a common condition affecting as many as 25 million American adults and 200 million people worldwide. It is broadly defined as any involuntary leakage of urine but can range in magnitude from a drop or two to completely wetting oneself due to an inability to access a bathroom in time. Although the statistics show the occurrence of UI to be quite high, the overall numbers may very well be understated – due to it’s obviously distressing and embarrassing nature, it is widely underreported to doctors and medical practitioners. If you or a loved one are experiencing the symptoms of UI, the causes can be found by taking a look at the five following types of urinary incontinence.

Urinary Incontinence: By Type

Stress Incontinence

Stress incontinence is predominantly found in women. Urinary leakage occurs when abdominal pressure is put upon the bladder from common exertions or activities. These include sneezing, coughing, lifting or certain types of exercise.

Overflow Incontinence

If you are experiencing a routine dripping or dribbling of urine following the act of urination, this is called overflow incontinence. This is a result of a bladder that doesn’t totally empty due to either a blockage in the urinary tract or weakened bladder contraction. Enlargement of the prostate makes overflow incontinence largely a male affliction.

Urge Incontinence

Urge incontinence is characterized by an unforeseen and acute need to urinate, leading to unintentional leakage of urine. The compulsion to urinate is frequent, may occur throughout the night and is sometimes so severe that people affected by it cannot make it to a bathroom in time. Causes range from minor infections to diabetes to a neurological disorder but more commonly urge incontinence is a result of overactive bladder (OAB), caused by urinary muscle spasms.

Functional Incontinence

Functional incontinence is simply the involuntary passage of urine due to not being able to make it to a toilet in time. Causes that can lead to functional incontinence generally have their roots in physical or mental impairment. It’s prevalence is high among the elderly, as weakened motor skills and eyesight or afflictions such as arthritis or dementia can often impede a person’s ability to access the bathroom. Other causes may be severe depression or excessive alcohol consumption.

Mixed Incontinence

Any combination of two or more types of urinary incontinence is considered to be mixed incontinence.

Urinary Incontinence Treatments

Depending on the type of urinary incontinence one is affected by, there are a range of treatment options. Medications such as fesoterodine and oxybutynin, pelvic floor and bladder exercises and general healthy lifestyle changes have been found to have an impact on alleviating UI. In some cases, particularly regarding female stress incontinence, surgical options exist to help reinforce weakened bladder muscles.

Additionally, there is a variety of adult absorbent undergarments available to help UI sufferers ease the distress of this remarkably common condition. If you are experiencing symptoms of urinary incontinence don’t be feel too embarrassed to consult a physician to target specific causes and treatment options.

Urinary Incontinence: By Sex

Female Incontinence

If you want to specifically get information about the different types of incontinence in women, head over to our Female Incontinence page. You’ll find female incontinence treatments, causes and products developed specifically for women.