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:

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
  • Obesity

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:
    • Surgery
    • Diabetes
    • 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.