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Types and causes of urinary incontinency

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Based on the causes four main types of urinary incontinency have been identified.

They are:

  • Stress incontinence/genuine stress incontinence
  • Overactive bladder/urge incontinence
  • Mixed incontinence
  • Overflow incontinence 

Stress incontinence

Stress incontinence refers to the involuntary loss of urine during an increase in the intra-abdominal pressure produced due to activities such as coughing, laughing or exercising.

This type of incontinence results from diminished activity of the urethral sphincter muscles, which normally help in retaining the urine.


Overactive bladder/urge incontinence

Overactive bladder/urge incontinence refers to involuntary loss of urine preceded by a strong urge to urinate, which is difficult to suppress, whether or not the bladder is full. This results from inability of the detrusor muscle (muscles in the wall of urinary bladder) in suppressing the urge and holding the urine within the bladder.

This inability may be a result of certain nerve disorder such as multiple sclerosis or due to injury to the spinal cord. At times, the exact cause may not be identified.


Mixed incontinence

Mixed incontinence as the name suggests, it is characterized by symptoms of both stress incontinence and urge incontinence and occurs due to the decreased activity of the urethral sphincter and inability of the detrusor muscle.


Overflow incontinence

Overflow incontinence refers to a condition wherein the affected individual is unable to urinate completely leading to accumulation of urine within the bladder. This in turn leads to frequent or constant dribbling of urine along with involuntary loss of urine during coughing or laughing. There may also be features of urge incontinence.

This type of incontinence may be caused due to a wide variety of causes such as

  • Nerve disorders
  • Enlarged prostate
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Administration of certain medications
  • Obstruction to the urinary tract or
  • Due to disorders such as diabetes and hypothyroidism.

Other infrequent causes include pelvic fracture trauma, complication of pelvic surgery, fistula in the urinary tract and decreased mobility in the older individuals.1,2 

Written by: Healthplus24 team
Date last updated: September 07, 2012

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