Urinary incontinence is the accidental release of urine. It can happen when you
cough, laugh, sneeze, or jog. Or you may have a sudden need to go to the
bathroom but can't get there in time. Bladder control problems are very common,
especially among older adults. They usually don't cause major health problems,
but they can be embarrassing.
Incontinence can be a short-term
problem caused by a
urinary tract infection, a medicine, or constipation.
It gets better when you treat the problem that is causing it. But this topic
focuses on ongoing urinary incontinence.
There are two
main kinds of urinary incontinence. Some women—especially older women—have both.
- Stress incontinence occurs when you
sneeze, cough, laugh, jog, or do other things that put
pressure on your bladder. It is the most common type of bladder control problem
- Urge incontinence happens when you have a
strong need to urinate but can't reach the toilet in time. This can happen even
when your bladder is holding only a small amount of urine. Some women may have
no warning before they accidentally leak urine. Other women may leak urine when
they drink water or when they hear or touch running water. Overactive bladder
is a kind of urge incontinence. But not everyone with overactive bladder leaks
Bladder control problems may
be caused by:
- Weak muscles in the lower urinary tract.
- Problems or damage either in the urinary tract or in the nerves
that control urination.
Stress incontinence can be caused by
childbirth, weight gain, or other conditions that stretch the pelvic floor muscles. When these muscles can't support your bladder properly, the bladder
drops down and pushes against the vagina. You can't tighten the muscles that
close off the
urethra. So urine may leak because of the extra
pressure on the bladder when you cough, sneeze, laugh, exercise, or do other
Urge incontinence is caused by an overactive bladder
muscle that pushes urine out of the bladder. It may be caused by irritation of
the bladder, emotional stress, or brain conditions such as
Parkinson's disease or
stroke. Many times doctors don't know what causes it.
main symptom is the accidental release of urine.
- If you have stress incontinence, you may leak a small to medium
amount of urine when you cough, sneeze, laugh, exercise, or do similar
- If you have urge incontinence, you may feel a sudden urge
to urinate and the need to urinate often. With this type of bladder control
problem, you may leak a larger amount of urine that can soak your clothes or
run down your legs.
- If you have mixed incontinence, you may have
symptoms of both problems.