An estimated 25-33% of Americans suffer from urinary incontinence. Described as loss of bladder control, this condition can range in severity. Some may leak urine when they cough or sneeze while others may experience such a strong and sudden urge to urinate that they’re unable to make it to the restroom in time.

Types of Urinary Incontinence

Urinary incontinence is generally categorized as one of four types: 

  • Stress Urinary Incontinence (SUI) link to page: A condition common among women that occurs when sudden pressure on the bladder and urethra causes urine to leak. The trademark symptom of SUI is leaking when you are active. 
  • Overactive Bladder (OAB) link to page: A group of urinary symptoms of which the most common is the sudden, uncontrolled need or urge to urinate.
  • Mixed Incontinence (SUI and OAB): Just as the name suggests, those with mixed incontinence suffer from both stress urinary incontinence and overactive bladder. 
  • Overflow Incontinence: A condition that occurs when one is unable to completely empty the bladder, causing an overflow which then leaks out unexpectedly.

Other less common types of urinary incontinence include urge, functional, reflex and anatomical.

Causes and Risk Factors

Chronic incontinence that worsens over time is caused by muscle weakness in the urinary tract, damage, a malfunction in the urinary tract, or a malfunction in the nerves that control urination. 

Acute incontinence, however, is temporary. This type may be caused by a urinary tract infection, medication side effect, constipation, bladder stones, or vaginal childbirth. 

There are risk factors that may increase one’s risk of developing urinary incontinence. These include: 

  • Gender: Chronic incontinence is most common in women, although it does occur in men.
  • Age: Aging can cause the muscles in your bladder and urethra to lose strength and reduce how much your bladder can hold as well as increasing the likelihood of involuntary urine release. For women, the risk of UI increases with menopause. 
  • Pregnancy: Women who have had a baby, either by vaginal delivery or cesarean section, have higher rates of urinary incontinence. The risk increases with the number of children. Additionally, those who develop the condition during pregnancy are more likely to have it afterward. 
  • Weight: Being obese or overweight can increase pressure on the bladder and surrounding muscles, allowing urine to leak when you cough or sneeze.
  • Smoking: A chronic smoker’s cough can cause incontinence or aggravate incontinence due to other causes. Smoking also increases the risk of an overactive bladder.
  • Other diseases: Kidney disease, diabetes, neurological diseases, and spinal injuries can all affect nerves controlling urination resulting in urinary incontinence.

Diagnosis and Treatment

More than half of those experiencing urinary incontinence fail to seek treatment despite that the condition often affects one’s daily activities. 

A urologist who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of urological conditions will start by reviewing your personal and family medical history followed by a physical exam. To rule out other causes, your doctor may order tests such as a urinalysis, bladder scan or cystoscopy. 

If urinary incontinence is diagnosed, your doctor can recommend a treatment plan. In many cases, simple lifestyle changes such as dietary modifications can alleviate symptoms. Other treatment options include: 

  • Medication
  • Urethral or mid-urethral sling
  • Injection therapy
  • Tension-free vaginal tape
  • Sacral Nerve Stimulation 
  • Prostate Surgery 
  • Artificial Urinary Sphincter

Schedule an Appointment

If you are experiencing an involuntary loss of urine, consult with a healthcare provider. At Alliance Urology Specialists in Greensboro, we pride ourselves on providing the highest level of specialized urology care. Our board-certified physicians specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of a variety of conditions, including urinary incontinence.

To schedule an appointment, call (336) 274-1114.