What is Urinary Incontinence?

Urinary incontinence — the loss of bladder control — is a common and often embarrassing problem. The severity ranges from occasionally leaking urine when you cough or sneeze to having an urge to urinate that’s so sudden and strong you don’t get to a restroom in time.

Though it occurs more often as people get older, urinary incontinence isn’t an inevitable consequence of aging. If urinary incontinence affects your daily activities, don’t hesitate to see your doctor of use our concierge service to find a local Healthcare Provider in your area. For most people, simple lifestyle changes or medical treatment can ease discomfort or stop urinary incontinence.

Primary Types of Urinary Incontinence

1. Stress Urinary Incontinence (SUI)

2. Urge Incontinence / Overactive Bladder (OAB)

3. Mixed Incontinence (Stress & Urge)

Click through the tabs below to learn about each

Primary Types of Urinary Incontinence

1. Stress Urinary Incontinence (SUI)

2. Urge Incontinence / Overactive Bladder (OAB)

3. Mixed Incontinence (Stress & Urge)

Click through the tabs below to learn about each

About Stress Urinary Icontinence (SUI)

Stress Urinary Incontinence is when pressure (or stress) placed on the bladder causes urinary leakage. This often happens with physical movement. If you've ever wondered why you pee when you laugh, pee when you cough, or pee when you exercise - that's stress urinary incontinence.

In order to understand why Stress Urinary Incontinence (SUI) occurs, a quick refresher course on the female urinary anatomy might be helpful. The bladder has two functions. The first is to store urine produced by the kidneys and the second is to contract and push the urine through the urethra. Controlling the flow of urine out of the bladder is the sphincter muscle. The nervous system detects when the bladder is ready to be emptied and tells the sphincter to relax, allowing you to pee. When there is any sort of abdominal stress on the pelvic organs—the bladder, vagina, uterus, and rectum—SUI can occur.

Symptoms of Stress Urinary Incontinence May Include:

Women with stress urinary incontinence feel a sudden and intense need to urinate, often triggered by activities that place added pressure or stress on their bladder and pelvic floor muscles. Some of the more common activities that can lead to leakage include:

  • Coughing

  • Sneezing

  • Laughing

  • Exercising or Working out

  • Having sex

  • Lifting something heavy

  • Standing up

  • Getting in or out of a car

Leakage may include just a small drop or two of urine or even a whole stream. Any amount is unwanted, so don’t dismiss your concerns simply because your leakage doesn’t seem as bad as it might otherwise be. If you find yourself wet, you can find yourself a treatment option.

Potential causes of Stress Urinary Incontinence may include:

SUI is the most common occurring form of incontinence in women under the age of 60 and accounts for more than half the cases. As we’ve mentioned, anything that creates pressure on the pelvic floor muscles and your bladder may cause leakage.

While pregnancy and childbirth head the list for causes of SUI, there are other health factors that may put you at risk, too. They include:

  • Loss of pelvic muscle tone. This can often occur with aging or childbirth, although people of all ages can develop SUI.

  • Hysterectomy (or any other surgery that affects your pelvic floor)

  • Nerve and muscle damage from childbirth or surgical trauma

  • Obesity

  • Menopause

  • Chronic coughing due to smoking and lung disease

  • Anatomical predisposition

  • Repeated heavy lifting or high impact sports

How does SUI affect your life?

Stress urinary incontinence can have a huge effect on your quality of life. The physical and emotional demands created by SUI can leave you feeling exhausted, embarrassed and even depressed. Some of the common byproducts of SUI are:

  • Depression.  Many people with SUI are deeply ashamed of their condition and live in constant fear of having an accident. This can lead to them avoiding things they once loved, like hanging out with friends or family, attending social events or even working out.  This restrictive nature of SUI can lead to isolation, loneliness and depression in many if left untreated.

  • Skin care issues. Constant moisture, especially urine, can cause your skin to be irritated and sore. It’s important to use proper protection for incontinence to avoid this from happening. Absorbent pads with wicking materials help keep moisture away from the body and avoid irritation, while moisture barrier creams can help protect skin from coming into contact with urine.

About Overactive Bladder (OAB)

Overactive Bladder, or OAB, is the frequent and urgent need to empty your bladder. Also sometimes called “spastic bladder”, OAB affects an estimated 33 million people in the USA alone. And half of the people with Overactive Bladder are struggling with Urgency Urinary Incontinence (UUI), when leakage actually occurs.

Typical symptoms of Overactive Bladder include urinating more than 8 times per day or more than once at night (urinary frequency) as well as a strong and sudden desire to urinate (urinary urgency).

Potential causes of Overactive Bladder may include:

To understand the cause of Overactive Bladder, a basic understanding of how the urinary system operates is needed.

The kidneys produce the urine and send it to the bladder. The bladder expands to holds the urine while the sphincter muscle acts as a spiget and controls the flow of urine. Basically on or off. As soon as your bladder gets approximately half full—most people can handle about 2 cups of urine—your brain is signaled that you need to empty it. The bladder muscles contract while the sphincter relaxes. When there is a coordination problem along this system, incontinence occurs.

With Overactive Bladder, a person may be suddenly aware of the urgency sensation but is unable to get to the toilet before losing control of his or her urine. Urine loss can be in large amounts that soak underwear and even outer clothing.

Common triggers like hearing running water or simply the anticipation of urinating can cause a bladder spasm. In some cases, people who have physical limitations may not be able to reach the toilet in time, causing an accident.

About Mixed Incontinence

Mixed incontinence is very common and occurs when symptoms of both stress and urgency types of incontinence are present. Often, symptoms of one type of incontinence may be more severe than the other.

For example, you may have a weak pelvis floor due to childbirth, creating stress urinary incontinence. Sometimes that causes leakage when one laughs or sneezes. When this incontinence is combined with an Overactive Bladder, the best treatment usually addresses the more serious condition. In this case, the weak pelvic floor would be a great place to start treatment.

You might also have mixed incontinence if there is urine leakage:

  • After an urge to urinate
  • When you experience a sudden urge to urinate
  • While you sleep
  • After drinking a small amount of water
  • Touching water or hearing it run

Potential causes of Mixed Incontinence may include:

As you might expect, mixed incontinence also shares the causes of both Stress Urinary Incontinence and Urgency Urinary Incontinence.

Stress Urinary Incontinence often results when childbirth, pregnancy, sneezing, coughing, or other factors have compromised the muscles that support and control the bladder. This, in turn, causes leakage.

Involuntary actions of the bladder muscles creates Urgency Urinary Incontinence. Damage to nerves of the bladder, the nervous system, or muscles themselves are usually the key causes. This damage may be caused by serious health issues including diabetes, MS, Parkinson’s disease, strokes, thyroid problems, and other surgery-related injuries.