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Millions of Americans suffer from symptoms of urinary incontinence, the inability to control urination.

There are several types of incontinence: Stress incontinence is leakage of urine caused by coughing, sneezing, or other movements that put pressure on the bladder; urge incontinence is the loss of urine after feeling a sudden need to urinate.

Many people have symptoms of both stress incontinence and urge incontinence. This combination is often referred to as mixed incontinence. Many studies show that mixed incontinence is a more common type of incontinence in older women.

Symptoms of Mixed Incontinence

Because mixed incontinence is typically a combination of stress and urge incontinence, it shares symptoms of both. You may have mixed incontinence if you experience the following symptoms:

  • Urine leakage when you sneeze, cough, laugh, do jarring exercise, or lift something heavy
  • Urine leakage after a sudden urge to urinate, while you sleep, after drinking a small amount of water, or touching water or hearing it run

Causes of Mixed Incontinence

Mixed incontinence also shares the causes of both stress incontinence and urge incontinence.

Stress incontinence often results when childbirth, pregnancy, sneezing, coughing, or other factors lead to weakened muscles that support and control the bladder or increase pressure on the bladder, causing urine to leak.

Urge incontinence is caused by involuntary actions of the bladder muscles. These may occur because of damage to nerves of the bladder, the nervous system, or muscles themselves. Such damage may be caused by certain surgeries or diseases such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, diabetes, stroke, or an injury.

Other medical conditions, such as thyroid problems and uncontrolled diabetes, can worsen symptoms of incontinence, as can certain medications such as diuretics.

Diagnosis of Mixed Incontinence

If you have problems with incontinence, it's important to speak with your doctor, who can diagnose the type of incontinence you have and devise a treatment plan. Your doctor may have you keep a diary for a day or more as a record of when you urinate -- purposely or not. You should note the times you use the toilet and the amount of urine (your doctor may have you use a special measuring pan that fits in the toilet seat) and when you leak. You may also record fluid intake.

Incontinence Coping Tips

How to keep inconvenience and embarrassment to a minimum
View slideshow