Understanding the Different Types of Incontinence

Incontinence is far more common among women that most people realize, but not all incontinence is the same. Different underlying causes mean there are different treatment options. 

Dr. Parisa Pourzand and her staff have helped many women who were experiencing urinary incontinence. If you’ve been told that incontinence is just part of being a woman or growing older, you may not realize that there are treatment options available. You don’t have to live with this uncomfortable problem! 

The most appropriate treatment for you depends on the type of incontinence you’re experiencing. Dr. Pourzand evaluates your situation before suggesting a treatment to help you. Here are the different types of incontinence and some of the treatment options available. 

Stress incontinence

Do you try to avoid coughing or sneezing because you’re afraid you’ll have a leak? Stress incontinence is the most common type of urinary incontinence among women. 

When your pelvic floor muscles are weakened or the muscles that hold your bladder closed are weak, any activity that puts pressure on those muscles can lead to urine leaking. Coughing and sneezing are examples, but also things like jumping or picking up something heavy, or even laughing, can cause leaking. 

Sometimes stress incontinence is just a small leak, but sometimes if you have a full bladder and there’s pressure on those weakened muscles, they can give way completely. In either case, it’s problematic. 

Often, exercises to strengthen your weakened pelvic floor muscles can correct stress incontinence. Sometimes a small device called a pessary can be inserted to prevent it, and in some cases surgery is the best option for treatment. 

Urge incontinence

Have you ever had a sudden, overwhelming urge to urinate followed by an involuntary loss of urine? That’s what happens if you have urge incontinence. You probably also feel the need to urinate often, even a few times during the night. Sometimes you may feel this urge even if your bladder isn’t full. 

Urge incontinence can be caused by an underlying issue such as an infection, or it can have a neurological cause. Diabetes increases your risk of developing urge incontinence. 

If your problem is caused by an infection, treating the infection may eliminate the incontinence. Other potential treatments include bladder training, use of a pessary or similar device, injections, or electrical stimulation of the nerves involved in bladder control. 

Overflow incontinence

If your bladder doesn’t empty properly, it can lead to a constant, dribbling leaking of urine. This type of incontinence is called overflow incontinence. 

There are several different treatment approaches for overflow incontinence, including medications, use of devices, techniques like double voiding to help your bladder empty more completely, and surgery. 

Other types

In addition to these three types of incontinence, there is functional incontinence, which is less a problem of bladder control and more an issue of overall function. If you can’t make it to the bathroom in time because you have some other physical issue, you have functional incontinence. 

Finally, it’s possible to have more than one type of incontinence. For example, if you have a broken leg, it’s entirely possible to experience both stress incontinence and functional incontinence. Or, you could have any other combination of the types. 

If you’d like to learn more about urinary incontinence and the treatments that are available, schedule an appointment with Dr. Pourzand. She’s happy to answer your questions in the context of your situation and to provide suggestions for treatment. 

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