If you suffer from urinary incontinence, you’re not alone. Millions of Americans, both men and women, suffer from incontinence. While the problem is slightly more common in women due to the urethra being shorter and the likelihood of childbirth weakening the muscular support of the bladder and urethra, anyone at any age can experience incontinence. What are the four types of incontinence?
Urge incontinence is when you feel like you have to go right this second, even if you felt fine only moments before. With urge incontinence, the feeling to urinate is impossible to ignore, and many people don’t always make it to the bathroom before going. Urge incontinence can be very difficult to have while trying to live a normal life: if you instantaneously have an uncontrollable urge to urinate and aren’t anywhere near a toilet, this can lead to leaks and accidents. Urge incontinence can be very frustrating and difficult to handle. This type of incontinence could be due to miscommunication between your bladder and your brain: the bladder tells the brain that it’s full, but really it isn’t. Behavioral or biofeedback therapies as well as different muscle exercises may be able to help your urge incontinence.
When you have stress incontinence, you may be experiencing a bit of leakage whenever you laugh, cough, or sneeze. There could be other activities you do that put strain on that area that cause you to leak as well. While stress incontinence doesn’t always lead to an accident, leaks can be frequent depending on how often you’re doing these things. Stress incontinence usually involves weakened muscles around the bladder and urethra, which you may be able to strengthen with Kegel exercises or pelvic muscle exercises. These may help alleviate your stress incontinence, so talk with your urologist about them.
Total incontinence is when there is constant leaking of any urine the kidneys produce. This could be caused by trauma to your pelvic area, spinal cord, or other diseases and disorders that affect your nerves. In women, total incontinence is usually due to a miscommunication between the bladder and the vagina. Men may experience total incontinence for a period of time after prostate cancer surgery. You may need to wear disposable underwear to handle this problem, or you could need a catheter. With total incontinence, fistulas (a passageway between an organ and your skin that is surgically made but not natural) may play a role, and surgery is required to correct this. You’ll need to speak with your urologist about total incontinence to discover which treatment is best for you based on the cause of your total incontinence.
If you have problems urinating or cannot urinate fully or at all, your bladder will likely be full all the time. As the kidneys keep producing urine, the excess urine literally overflows and exits your body through your urethra. Overflow incontinence can happen without any warning or any feeling like you have to urinate. The overflow of the urine is not controlled and can happen at any time. Another issue resulting from overflow incontinence is urinary tract infections—when the bladder is not emptying itself fully, urine remains in the bladder for periods of time, therefore creating an environment for bacteria to grow. This type of incontinence is more likely in men, who may have an enlarged prostate that is causing the incontinence. If this is the case, treatment for an enlarged prostate will be required. Other types of treatment include surgery if there is a blockage, a catheter, and certain medications. Kegels and pelvic muscle exercises may or may not help.
While your risk for incontinence increases as you age, incontinence is not a result of aging. You should explore treatment options for your type of incontinence with your urologist. Don’t live with the embarrassment and life-altering changes that come with incontinence—discover the cause and talk with your doctor to help get your incontinence treated today.