Understanding the Different Types of Urinary Incontinence


Urinary incontinence is a common bladder disorder that affects millions of Americans. While women are far more likely to develop Urinary Incontinence (or UI), men can also be afflicted. UI occurs when a patient experiences unwanted urine leakage during some form of regular daily physical activity. This can be minor bladder leaking after coughing or sneezing, or a total emptying of the bladder.

Urinary incontinence can be temporary condition caused by a urinary tract infection, pregnancy or even certain medications. However, the effects of urinary incontinence can be long-lasting. In these cases, the issue is often caused by a weakening of the muscles and tissues around the pelvis, usually resulting from natural aging or childbirth.

There are several different types of urinary incontinence. Each kind has its own causes and triggers and affects the afflicted person differently. Below we will highlight the most common types of urinary incontinence, their causes and potential treatments in hopes of educating and preparing the reader for how to combat urinary incontinence.

Overflow Incontinence

Overflow incontinence is a form of incontinence that prevents you from fully emptying the bladder.

Because the bladder doesn’t empty properly, this leads to overflow which can unexpectedly leak out. This can also lead to the feeling that your bladder is never really empty.

The most common causes of overflow incontinence include weakened bladder muscles, nerve damage, blocked urine flow, constipation or reaction to certain medications. If left untreated, overflow incontinence can lead to urinary tract infection and similar medical issues.

Stress Incontinence

Stress incontinence is the most common form of urinary incontinence in the US. It results in the involuntary loss of urine after or during mild physical activities like laughing, sneezing, coughing, or exercising. This physical exertion can put daily physical stress and pressure on the abdomen and bladder, leading to bladder leakage.

Weakening of the pelvic floor muscles, which usually occurs as a result of pregnancy, childbirth or menopause, is the most common cause of stress incontinence. As these muscles weaken, the pelvic the ligaments that support the bladder weaken as well, making you susceptible to bladder leakage. Stress incontinence can occur at any stage of life.

Urge Incontinence

Urge incontinence, sometimes known as an overactive bladder, is characterized by an expected emptying of the bladder after a sudden, immediate urge to urinate. Those experiencing urge incontinence may urinate more than eight times per day and wake up in the night to go as well.

Accidental urination can be triggered by sudden change in position or activity, exposure to running water and drinking even a small amount of liquid. Urge incontinence is twice as common in women as men, and becomes more common with age.

Mixed Incontinence

Mixed incontinence refers to a condition in which a person experiences symptoms of both stress and urge incontinence. It can often include leakage during physical activity and an overwhelmingly strong, sudden urge to urinate immediately.

Because urinary incontinence generally involves treating the underlying cause of the symptoms, getting an accurate diagnosis of your condition is an important first step in treatment. This normally involves a discussion of your symptoms, as well as a pelvic exam. Fortunately, simple lifestyle changes and treatments are often able to control urinary incontinence and help patients put an end to the social stress and discomfort it creates. However, if additional treatment is needed, options may include medications, injections or surgical procedures, depending on the hormonal or structural causes of the symptoms. For treatment plans or general questions about urinary incontinence, please contact the Dr. Kristine Gould and the board-certified gynecologists at Gynecology Associates of Gwinnett today at (678) 380-1980. 


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