What are the Different Kinds of Urinary Incontinence

Updated: Nov 17

Urinary incontinence is the inability to control urine flow and involuntary urination. The different kinds of urinary incontinence are categorized by the type and symptoms of the problem. So what are the different kinds of incontinence terms you should know? The different categories are known as stress, urge, mixed, overflow, functional, and reflex urinary incontinence.


Stress Incontinence


You may be experiencing stress incontinence if leakage occurs while smoking, coughing, laughing, or exercising. When abdominal pressure increases, pressure against the bladder also increases. In doing so, the leakage of urine is possible.


When the pelvic floor muscles are weakened or damaged, generally due to pregnancy or age, they cannot dependently prevent the release of urine. In most cases, a tiny amount of urine leaks out. Stress incontinence is divided into two subtypes; Urethral Hypermobility (UH) and Intrinsic Sphincter Deficiency (ISD).


UH occurs when the bladder and urethra shift downward during rising abdominal pressure. ISD occurs when problems in the urinary sphincter interfere with full closure or allow the sphincter to pop open under pressure.


Women who have vaginal births are more likely to develop stress incontinence. This is because giving birth will have stretched and possibly damaged the muscles and nerves of the pelvic floor.


Urge Incontinence (An Overactive Bladder)


A strong urge to urinate without a full bladder may indicate urge incontinence or an overactive bladder. The urge is so strong and sudden that relieving yourself in a restroom might not be possible.

The urgency is caused when the detrusor—a bladder muscle—contracts and signals to your brain that it's time to urinate, even if the bladder isn't full. Urge incontinence can result from physical problems, such as brain, spinal, or nerve damage.


Aside from age, there are no identifiable general causes for an overactive bladder. It is most often seen in postmenopausal women because of the age-related changes in the lining and muscle of the bladder.


Infections in the urinary tract (UTI), bladder, or prostate can cause temporary urge incontinence, as can neurological diseases. In men, an enlarged prostate, a bladder stone, and, in rare cases, a tumor can also cause an overactive bladder.


Mixed Incontinence


Displaying both symptoms of stress and urge incontinence simultaneously could indicate having mixed incontinence. Women are more likely to have mixed continence than men. The symptoms are exasperated during pregnancy, postpartum, and menopause.


Overflow Incontinence


A bladder that never empties completely but occasionally leaks can signify overflow incontinence. This symptom can occur whether or not you feel the need to urinate.


Overflow incontinence occurs when the normal urine flow from the bladder is blocked. The enlargement of the prostate can partially close off the urethra, which can occur in men.


An underactive bladder, where you don't feel the urge to urinate, can eventually become overfilled or distended, allowing urine to leak out from the urethra. Random spasming of the bladder can also be a cause for leakage. Overflow incontinence occurs much more frequently in men than women because prostate-related conditions often cause it.


Functional Incontinence

The inability of your brain to tell you that you need to urinate even though you possess a properly functioning urinary tract is functional incontinence. This type of incontinence is often caused by illness or disability rather than intense pressure on the bladder.


Medication side effects, dementia, or other forms of mental illness can decrease the need or awareness for using the bathroom at proper intervals. This condition can affect anyone, man or woman, at any time.


Reflex Incontinence


When urine releases without warning or urge, it could be reflex incontinence. Reflex incontinence occurs when the bladder muscle contracts and urine leaks due to nerve damage that usually warns the brain that the bladder is filling.


People with severe neurological impairments are at risk for reflex incontinence.

Many treatments can help alleviate the symptoms brought on by the different kinds of incontinence. Medications, pelvic floor muscle (Kegel) exercises, lifestyle changes, and electrical stimulation for urinary incontinence can help.


If you desire help relieving urinary incontinence, speak to a medical professional about what treatment is right for you.


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