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Urinary incontinence -- when you accidentally leak urine -- is a problem that affects millions of Americans, most of them women. There are several different types, causes, and treatments.

Stress Incontinence

With this type, urine leaks due to weakened pelvic floor muscles and tissues. It can happen when pressure on your bladder increases -- such as when you exercise, laugh, sneeze, or cough.

Pregnancy and childbirth can stretch and weaken a woman’s pelvic floor muscles. Other things that can lead to stress incontinence are being overweight or obese, taking certain medications or, in men, having prostate surgery.

Urge Incontinence

This is also called overactive bladder (OAB). With this type, you have an urgent need to go to the bathroom and may not get there in time.

Causes of overactive bladder include:

  • Damage to the bladder's nerves
  • Damage to other parts of the nervous system
  • Damage to muscles

Conditions such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, diabetes, and stroke can affect nerves, leading to urge incontinence. Bladder problems, such as infections and bladder stones, and certain medications can also cause it.

Overflow Incontinence

If you can't empty your bladder, you may have overflow incontinence. This means you may dribble urine.

Causes include:

  • Weak bladder muscles
  • Nerve damage
  • Conditions that block the flow of urine, such as tumors or an enlarged prostate
  • Constipation
  • Certain medications

You need to get the condition treated. If your bladder can't empty, that can lead to infections and other problems.

Functional Incontinence

Mental or physical problems such as dementia or arthritis prevent you from getting to the bathroom in time.

Mixed Urinary Incontinence

This means you have any two types of the condition. Many women have both stress and urge incontinence.

Treatment for Different Types of Urinary Incontinence

Lifestyle changes and treatments can help with symptoms. Your doctor can help you come up with a plan that’s right for you.

For stress incontinence, treatments include:

Pelvic floor exercises. If you've had a baby, chances are you've been told to do Kegel exercises. These help to strengthen the pelvic floor after childbirth. They also help prevent stress incontinence. Best of all, you can do Kegels anytime, anywhere.

Incontinence Coping Tips

How to keep inconvenience and embarrassment to a minimum
View slideshow