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Kinds of Incontinence

November 24, 2015 | Dr. Ray Bologna

Incontinence is a common issue that comes in a variety of forms and diagnoses. The first step to alleviating the problem is recognizing your symptoms and getting a proper diagnosis from your urologist.

The most common types of urinary incontinence are stress urinary incontinence, overactive bladder-wet (urge urinary incontinence), and mixed urinary incontinence. If you think (*or know*) that you have a problem, there’s a good chance you’ll find your symptoms below:

Overactive bladder is a bladder storage problem, in which the bladder contracts suddenly and inappropriately. You feel it as a frequent and overpowering urge to go to the toilet, night and day, followed by a powerful and uncontrollable bladder contraction. If the muscles that keep your urethra closed are weak, you won’t make it to the toilet in time. This is overactive bladder-wet (also called urge urinary incontinence). If your pelvic muscles are fit, you normally will get there in time. This is overactive bladder-dry (or, simply put, just urgency).

Stress urinary incontinence is also a bladder storage problem in which the muscles that normally stop the flow of urine are too weak to stop it when pressure is exerted on the bladder from the abdomen above. This causes you to leak urine as you stand up, or get out of a car, lift a heavy object, exercise, cough, sneeze, or laugh. Any action that creates downward pressure on the bladder and urethra or increases intra-abdominal pressure can cause you to leak urine. Some of you will remember your baby kicking your bladder.

In mixed urinary incontinence, not only do you leak when you lift, you never want to find yourself where you can’t find a toilet. You have symptoms of both stress urinary incontinence and an overactive bladder.

Many women experience stress urinary incontinence in their younger years, surprised, at first, by leaking during an aerobics class or as they lift their toddlers. Overactive bladder tends to appear later in life; its incidence increases with age and often worsens after menopause.

Other, less common forms of incontinence include overflow urinary incontinence, functional urinary incontinence, and continuous (total) urinary incontinence.

Overflow urinary incontinence is when you leak small amounts of urine without noticing. You may feel the urge to go or realize that your bladder is full until you notice your pad is wet. This means that you’re not able to completely empty your bladder or make it contract it to expel urine.

Functional urinary incontinence is when you have a problem recognizing the signals that you need urinate and are physically unable to reach a toilet in time.

Continuous (total) urinary incontinence is when you have no control of urine flow, which leaks continuously into the vagina, a rare condition possibly caused by a hole in the bladder (a fistula) or an injury to the urethra.

If you believe you have a problem, there’s no cause for panic. Many of these symptoms are quite common and can be managed with or without surgery and medication. See your physician or contact a urologist to get back on track to total bladder control.

Find more articles on Bladder Problems, Pelvic Floor Problems