Urinary incontinence is the loss of voluntary bladder control that can cause leakage of urine. It can be temporary or last for a long time.
There are four types of long term or permanent incontinence:
- Stress incontinence—most common type. Leakage occurs when there is extra pressure on the bladder. Triggers may include laughing, sneezing, lifting heavy objects, or exercise.
- Urge incontinence—known as overactive bladder, a loss of bladder control following a strong urge to urinate. The bladder is unable to hold urine long enough to make it to a restroom.
- Overflow incontinence—the bladder will not empty, so urine builds up and the bladder overflows.
- Functional incontinence—there is normal bladder control, but the toilet can't be reached in time.
People may have just one or a combination of these types.
Incontinence has several different causes. The cause could also be unclear.
Temporary incontinence can be caused by:
- Muscle weakness
- Restricted mobility
- Endocrinological disorders such as diabetes
Muscles Involved in Incontinence in Women
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Stress incontinence is an accidental loss of urine during physical activity or coughing, sneezing, and laughing. It may be caused by:
- Weakening of muscles that suspend the bladder
- Weakening of muscles that control urine flow
- Urge incontinence is the accidental loss of urine when the bladder spasms for no reason. It may be caused or worsened by:
Overflow incontinence is leaking of urine due to overfilling up and overflowing from bladder. It may be caused or worsened by:
- A bladder that is blocked, such as by a scar in the urethra
- Fecal impaction
- Drugs such as antidepressants, hypnotics, antipsychotics, antihistamines, or calcium channel blockers
- Vitamin B12 deficiency
- Weak bladder muscles
Nerve damage due to:
- Spinal cord injuries
- Other factors
Functional incontinence may be caused by:
- Medical conditions that make it difficult to move like severe arthritis
- Drugs that cause confusion or sedation
Some incontinence may be caused by a fistula. A fistula is an abnormal opening between the bladder and another nearby structure. The fistula can make it difficult for the bladder to act as it should.
Last reviewedDecember 2013by Adrienne Carmack, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.