PATIENT EDUCATION SERIES: Urinary incontinence

October 2004 
Volume 34  Number 10
Pages 62 - 63
  PDF Version Available!


  • What is urinary incontinence?

  • How will my health care provider learn what kind of urinary incontinence I have?

  • How will my health care provider treat my urinary incontinence?


  • Figure. No caption a...

  • Table. How does my i...

    What is urinary incontinence?

    You can develop urinary incontinence (also called bladder control problems) at any age. Although urinary incontinence is more common in older people, it's not a normal part of aging. Instead, it may be a sign of another problem that can be cured or made better with treatment.

    Urinary incontinence falls into four types:

    Stress incontinence is the loss or leaking of urine during exercise, sneezing, laughing, coughing, or when lifting something heavy. You may need to make many trips to the bathroom to avoid accidents. This type of urinary incontinence is more common in women than men.

    Urge incontinence (also called overactive bladder) is the loss of urine as soon as you feel the urge to go to the bathroom. You may not be able to get to the bathroom fast enough to avoid an accident.

    Figure. No caption available. Overflow incontinence occurs when you often feel the need to urinate, but you can't completely empty your bladder. You may have trouble urinating, producing only a dribble or weak stream, and you may lose or leak small amounts of urine throughout the day. This type of incontinence is more common in men, especially those who have an enlarged prostate.

    Functional incontinence is caused by problems that prevent you from getting to the bathroom in time to avoid an accident. For example, you may have trouble walking quickly because of arthritis or a stroke.

    A combination of urge and stress incontinence, called mixed incontinence , is also common.

    How will my health care provider learn what kind of urinary incontinence ...

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