Table of Contents
Types of Urinary Incontinence
Urinary incontinence is generally categorized into the following types:
- Stress incontinence is caused by activities (coughing, sneezing, laughing, running, or lifting) that apply pressure to a full bladder. Stress incontinence is very common among women, with childbirth and menopause increasing the risk for it. It can also affect men who have had surgical procedures for prostate disease, especially cancer.
- Urge incontinence, also called overactive bladder, is marked by a need to urinate frequently. There are many causes of urge incontinence, including medical conditions (benign prostatic hyperplasia, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, stroke, and spinal cord injuries), surgeries (hysterectomy, radical prostatectomy), and infections.
- Overflow incontinence occurs when the bladder cannot empty completely, which leads to dribbling. Bladder obstruction and inactive bladder muscle can cause overflow incontinence. Risk factors include certain types of medications, benign prostatic hyperplasia, and nerve damage.
- Functional incontinence is incontinence due to mental or physical disabilities that impair a person’s ability to use or get to the toilet, despite a healthy urinary system.
- Mixed incontinence. Many people have more than one type of urinary incontinence.
Treatment of Urinary Incontinence
Treatment options for urinary incontinence depend on the type of incontinence and the severity of the condition. Treatments include:
- Lifestyle Changes. Significant weight gain can weaken pelvic floor muscle tone, leading to urinary incontinence. Losing weight through healthy diet and exercise is important. Regulating the time you drink fluids and avoiding alcohol and caffeine are also helpful.
- Behavioral Techniques. Pelvic floor exercises (Kegel exercises) can help strengthen the muscles of the pelvic floor that support the bladder and close the sphincter. Bladder training can help patients learn to delay urination.
- Medications. Drugs, such as oxybutynin (Ditropan) and tolterodine (Detrol), are mainly used to treat urge incontinence.
- Surgery. Many types of surgical procedures are used to correct anatomical problems that contribute to severe urinary incontinence.
Review Date: 07/26/2010
Reviewed By: Harvey Simon, MD, Editor-in-Chief, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Physician, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.