4 Types of Urinary Incontinence

If you occasionally or frequently experience urinary incontinence, you may feel uncomfortable talking about it. Dr. Parisa Pourzand and her staff understand your discomfort with the topic, but we would also like you to know that you’re far from alone. Millions of people have this issue, and there are effective treatments. 

Urinary incontinence describes what happens when you lose control of your bladder. You may leak a little urine, or have a more noticeable accident. Not all urinary incontinence is the same, and the best treatment varies depending on which type you have. 

1. Stress incontinence

Overall, women are more likely to experience urinary incontinence than men, and stress incontinence is the most common type of incontinence among women. If you’ve ever leaked a bit of urine when you coughed, laughed, sneezed, or anything else that put stress on your bladder, you’ve probably experienced stress incontinence. 

Your bladder is relaxed as it fills with urine, but all the muscles around it, the pelvic floor muscles, remain contracted, providing support and helping keep your urethra closed. When you urinate, your bladder contracts to squeeze out the urine, and everything else relaxes, allowing your urethra to open and the urine to pass out of your body. 

The reason for stress incontinence is usually weak pelvic floor muscles. They don’t contract quite enough to keep your urethra tightly closed off. Physical therapy is often a very effective treatment because there are specific exercises you can do to strengthen those muscles. 

2. Urge incontinence

This type of incontinence may also be called overactive bladder or overactive detrusor. Your detrusor is the part of your bladder that’s responsible for sending the signal to your brain that your bladder is full and you need to urinate. 

When you have urge incontinence, you have a very powerful need to get to the bathroom, very suddenly, and sometimes you may not make it in time. You may have this experience several times per day, and even wake up multiple times during the night racing to the restroom. You may even find that your bladder is nowhere near full when you feel these powerful urges, and that can be very frustrating. 

Some things, like caffeine, alcohol, and even chili peppers can worsen urge incontinence. There are certain medical conditions that can cause it as well, such as an infection, or even a chronic condition like diabetes. 

The most appropriate treatment for urge incontinence depends in large part on the underlying cause. It may be as simple as avoiding certain foods and beverages, or it may improve if an underlying condition is treated. Some people find that bladder training, which involves your pelvic floor muscles, is an effective approach. 

3. Overflow incontinence

Where women experience stress incontinence most often, men experience overflow incontinence most often; though women have this type of incontinence as well. When your bladder can’t completely empty because of some blockage, or you have underactive muscles (the opposite of urge incontinence), or you have nerve damage, you may not realize that you need to urinate. Your bladder can become overfull, distended, and eventually urine leaks out. 

4. Functional incontinence 

This type of urinary incontinence has less to do with your urinary tract and more to do with your overall physical health. When you have functional incontinence, you can’t make it to the bathroom in time due to some other problem. A broken leg that makes you move far more slowly than you normally do, for example, could lead you to have temporary functional incontinence. 

Some people have more than one type of incontinence, so Dr. Pourzand may recommend some combination of treatments to meet your needs. It’s important for you to realize that urinary incontinence doesn’t have to be something you just live with. Book an appointment and talk to Dr. Pourzand, because there may well be an effective treatment option that could change your life.

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