Types of Urinary Incontinence

Urgency urinary incontinence refers to urinary incontinence occurring with a sudden desire to urinate and loss of urine before reaching the bathroom. The incontinence episode is often triggered when hearing or feeling water, such as when washing hands, social situations such as opening the door upon arriving home, or even commonly performed daily habits such as standing from a seated position. The loss of urine is usually a larger amount and a woman usually has no way of stopping it. Due to the uncontrolled urge to void (urinate), patients often void more often than normal (more than 8 voids in 24 hours) and wake up more than once at night to void. This type of incontinence is often caused by bladder spasms. Some patients may only have urgency and not necessarily have leakage of urine when the compelling desire to urinate is noted; however, frequency and discomfort caused by this condition impacts their life negatively. This urgency is a component of overactive bladder syndrome.

Stress urinary incontinence refers to loss of urine during a physical “stress” or activity where a force causes an increase in intra-abdominal pressure. Common examples include laughing, coughing, sneezing or jumping. Often patients will be limited in their ability to engage in exercise and sport activities due to their incontinence. This type of incontinence is caused by anatomic changes in the support of the urethra and bladder, and often is associated with weakness of pelvic floor muscles supporting the bladder. 

Mixed urinary incontinence refers to conditions where both urgency urinary incontinence and stress urinary incontinence may be present and impacting a patient’s life concurrently. Treatment often requires management of both, keeping in mind that each is treated differently. 

It is important that the proper evaluation be made to determine the type of incontinence. Each type is treated differently. Some require only medical treatment, whereas other types require surgical management. Incontinence often has multiple etiologies. To achieve a successful outcome, each of the underlying causes must be identified and addressed in the treatment plan. 

At the Women's Health Center for Urogynecology and Female Pelvic Medicine, your initial evaluation with your physician begins with a comprehensive history and assessment of your ability to urinate. Your visit will also include a pelvic examination as well as a visual assessment of the urethral and vaginal anatomy. Additional testing may be recommended only if indicated and may be scheduled at a later time that is convenient for you.  

Once your evaluation is complete, your physician will discuss the findings with you and suggest options for your treatment plan. These options often include non-surgical interventions as the first line for management. If conservative and medical management is not desired and surgery may be indicated, our fellowship-trained surgeons are specialized in minimally invasive surgery.  

Furthermore, our physicians strive to work closely with you and your referring doctor to make sure you fully understand your treatment choices and develop a treatment plan that will fit your lifestyle and that is tailored for you.