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4 Types of Incontinence and What to Do About Them

4 Types of Incontinence and What to Do About Them

Urinary incontinence is a sensitive issue that creates embarrassment for many women, causing them to avoid discussing the problem with their providers. But at least 40% of women over age 65 and many younger women struggle with urinary leaks. 

Although it’s common, urinary incontinence is never normal. It’s a sign that something in your body needs attention, making it an important symptom to discuss with your provider. 

At Southern Crescent Women’s HealthCare, in Fayetteville, Newnan, and Stockbridge, Georgia, our board-certified OB/GYN providers understand the embarrassment urinary incontinence can bring. The good news is different treatments exist depending on the type and cause of your incontinence. 

Keep reading as our experts explain the four types of incontinence and how we can help you find relief.

The different types of urinary incontinence

Urinary incontinence describes the condition that results when you’re unable to hold your urine until you can use a restroom. It can cause leaks, dribbles, and even a full loss of control over the contents of your bladder.

There are four types of incontinence: stress, overflow, urgency — which is more often referred to as overactive bladder — and mixed. Here’s a closer look at each of them: 

1. Stress urinary incontinence

Stress incontinence is the most common type of urinary incontinence, and younger women are the group most affected by it. This type of incontinence results from the weakening of the muscles that support your bladder and urethra. When these are weak, urine can leak when even slight pressure on the bladder occurs. 

With stress incontinence, small amounts of urine may “leak” when you cough, sneeze, laugh, or participate in certain exercises, such as running, jumping, or dancing. The physical stress of pregnancy, childbirth, and age-related vaginal atrophy — which causes the vaginal walls to get weaker, thinner, and drier — often contribute to this type of incontinence. 

2. Overactive bladder 

Overactive bladder, or urgency incontinence, is a type of incontinence that affects older women the most. With this type of incontinence, you get sudden, strong, and desperate urges to urinate. The urge can be so strong you leak urine even when your bladder is mostly empty.  

This condition results when the muscles that control your bladder, the detrusor muscles, misfire and begin contracting before your bladder is full, creating something called detrusor overactivity. These contractions tell your body that you need to urinate, even if you physically don’t need to use the restroom. 

Detrusor overactivity can be caused by many conditions, including diabetes, muscle spasms, neurological disease, abnormal nerve activity, and even brain damage. But for many women, an identifiable cause of overactive bladder is never discovered. 

3. Overflow incontinence

If you feel like you can’t empty your bladder when you urinate, you may have overflow incontinence. This type of incontinence causes small amounts of urine to leak after you use the restroom because your bladder can’t hold the amount of urine your body produces.

You may feel the need to urinate when the leaking occurs, but many women don’t feel this and end up wearing protective pads to prevent embarrassing moments. Overflow incontinence can also lead to trouble starting to urinate, the need to get up many times to urinate at night, and an increased occurrence of urinary tract infections.  

4. Mixed urinary incontinence

You’re diagnosed with mixed urinary incontinence when you have one or more of the above types of incontinence. This type of incontinence may require more than one type of solution to help you find relief. 

Treating urinary incontinence

At Southern Crescent Women’s HealthCare, your provider first diagnoses the cause and type of your incontinence before creating a personalized incontinence treatment plan based on your unique needs. 

Sometimes, incontinence is triggered by treatable conditions, such as a urinary tract infection, bladder stones or growths, or different types of medications, like diuretics. Other times, lifestyle factors can contribute to incontinence, such as drinking caffeinated beverages or alcohol. And, physical attributes can also contribute to it, such as having weakened pelvic floor muscles.

To get a diagnosis, your provider gives you a physical exam, discusses your symptoms and medical history, and orders any additional testing. Based on the results, your provider may prescribe one or more treatments, including:

In severe cases, your provider may recommend surgical interventions. 

If you’re struggling with urinary incontinence, we can help. To learn more, call 770-991-2200 or book an appointment online with Southern Crescent Women’s HealthCare today.

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