Understanding the Different Types of Urinary Incontinence

Not all urinary incontinence is the same, but there are effective treatments for the different types. Many people think that urine leaking is simply a part of aging, but that doesn’t have to be the case. 

Dr. Cheri Coyle and our obstetrics team at The Center for Women’s Health have helped many women suffering from urinary incontinence. We’ve discovered that it’s often a source of embarrassment and that a large percentage of our patients aren’t aware anything can be done about it.

There are several different types of urinary incontinence, and treatments for those types vary. Talking to Dr. Coyle about your situation is the first step in figuring out what’s going on and what can be done about it. 

Defining urinary incontinence

If you just leak a few drops of urine under certain circumstances, is it considered incontinence? Does your bladder have to involuntarily empty for you to seek treatment? Could incontinence be connected to another health issue? 

Urinary incontinence is loss of bladder control, whether you lose only a small amount of urine or your bladder completely empties. The condition affects women more often than men, and can be temporary or chronic. 

There are four main types of urinary incontinence, and you may be affected by a combination of the four types. Incontinence can be caused by other health issues. 

1. Stress incontinence

This type of urinary incontinence isn’t related to the stress of something like sleeping through your alarm, but to putting stress on your bladder. If you experience urine leaking when you laugh, sneeze, pick up a heavy object, or other similar situations, you have stress incontinence. 

This is the most common type of incontinence, and it is often treated with physical therapy to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. 

2. Urge incontinence

When you feel the need to urinate very suddenly and can’t quite make it to the bathroom in time, you’re experiencing urge incontinence. It may be due to having an overactive bladder. 

Urge incontinence is sometimes related to another health condition, such as multiple sclerosis or Alzheimer’s disease, among others. 

In some cases, bladder training can be helpful in treating urge incontinence, and there are some medications that may be helpful. 

3. Overflow incontinence

In some people incontinence happens because they can’t empty their bladder. You go to the restroom, but some urine remains in your bladder, and it fills quickly again — fills too much. Your overfull bladder then leaks. 

Some medications can cause overflow incontinence, and it may be related to problems such as having kidney stones or diabetes. 

4. Functional incontinence

When you have a physical problem that prevents you getting to the bathroom in time, such as a leg in a cast, or severe arthritis that limits your mobility, you may experience functional incontinence. 

Finding a treatment

As you might imagine, treating your incontinence depends in large part on the type and underlying cause. Dr. Coyle usually begins with the least intrusive methods of treatment, such as modifying your lifestyle. She may suggest you change when and how much liquid you consume, begin an exercise routine, lose weight, treat constipation, or stop smoking, among other potential lifestyle interventions. 

In some cases, bladder training or strengthening your pelvic floor muscles is a good approach. Others need medications, medical devices, injections, or even surgery. 

If you have questions about urinary incontinence, schedule an appointment with Dr. Coyle today. Find out what options there are for you!

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