Urinary Incontinence

Urinary incontinence simply means leaking urine. Incontinence can range from leaking just a few drops of urine to complete emptying of the bladder.

There are three main types of urinary incontinence:

  1. Stress urinary incontinence (SUI) is leaking urine when coughing, laughing or sneezing. Leaks also can happen when a woman walks, runs or exercises.
  2. Urgency urinary incontinence is a sudden strong urge to urinate that is hard to stop. Women with this type of urinary incontinence may leak urine on the way to the bathroom. If you have an “overactive bladder,” it means that you have symptoms of urgency and frequency that may or may not include incontinence.
  3. Mixed incontinence combines symptoms of both SUI and urgency urinary incontinence.

Other symptoms include urgency, frequency, waking from sleep to urinate, painful urination, and leaking urine while sleeping.


  • Urinary tract infection (UTI)
  • Diuretic medications, caffeine or alcohol
  • Pelvic floor disorders—These disorders are caused by weakening of the muscles and tissues of the pelvic floor and include urinary incontinence, accidental bowel leakage, and pelvic organ prolapse.
  • Constipation
  • Neuromuscular problems—When nerve (neurologic) signals from the brain to the bladder and urethra are disrupted, the muscles that control those organs can malfunction, allowing urine to leak.
  • Anatomical problems—The outlet of the bladder into the urethra can become blocked by bladder stones or other growths.


The first two steps in assessing urinary incontinence usually are a medical history and physical exam. Sometimes, imaging tests and bladder function tests are done if more information is needed.


Nonsurgical treatment options include lifestyle changes, bladder training, physical therapy and using bladder support devices. For urgency urinary incontinence, the treatment may involve medication. Surgery may help certain types of incontinence. Often, several treatments are used together for the best effect.

Source: American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.