What is the Difference Between Stress Incontinence and Urge Incontinence?

November 14, 2022

Urinary incontinence is an inconvenient and embarrassing problem. If you have incontinence, you may need to plan your day around access to restrooms or worry about leaks and odor. It affects millions of men and women. Fortunately, it’s treatable!

What is Urinary Incontinence?

Urination requires complex coordination of muscles and nerves in the bladder and surrounding structures. When the need to urinate arises, the bladder’s muscles contract at the same time the sphincter relaxes and opens. After urination, the sphincter closes back up and the bladder muscles stop contracting.

Urinary incontinence occurs when the sphincter muscles cannot properly close the urethra or when the sudden contraction of bladder muscles causes an uncontrollable urge to urinate. Urinary incontinence is the medical term for any condition that causes urine to leak or a loss of bladder control.

Stress incontinence and urge incontinence are the two most common forms.

The first step in getting treatment is determining which type of incontinence you have.

Stress Incontinence

Stress urinary incontinence occurs when the muscles around the urethra fail to contract efficiently in response to increased abdominal pressure, resulting in urine leakage. The main symptom of stress incontinence is to leak urine during physical movement or activities that stress the abdomen, such as:

  • Laughing
  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Bending over
  • Exercising
  • Lifting heavy objects

Urine leakage may not occur every time you do one of these activities. However, any activity that strains your bladder can increase the likelihood of involuntary urine leakage, especially if the bladder is full.

Stress incontinence is a common cause of urinary incontinence in women, particularly those who may be overweight and have given birth vaginally. Some men develop this type of urinary incontinence after prostate surgery.

Urge Incontinence

Urgency incontinence, also known as urge incontinence, is an intense, uncontrollable urge to urinate. Often, the urge is so intense that you may leak urine on the way to the bathroom. Another name for a sudden, frequent urge to urinate is overactive bladder (OAB).

Many people with OAB must go to the bathroom more frequently than most during the day or at night.

Urgency urinary incontinence can occur due to the following:

  • Neurological disorders such as stroke and multiple sclerosis
  • Diabetes
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Hormonal changes during menopause in women
  • Tumors or bladder stones
  • Enlarged prostate
  • Constipation
  • Previous surgery
  • Medications

The specific cause of an overactive bladder may not be known.

Symptoms of urge incontinence include:

  • A sudden urge to urinate that is hard to control
  • An unintentional loss of urine immediately after an urgent need to urinate
  • Frequent urination, usually eight or more times in 24 hours
  • Waking up more than two times in the night to urinate
  • Worsening with exposure to a cold environment or running water

Mixed Urinary Incontinence

Mixed incontinence may involve both stress and urinary urgency incontinence.

It is essential to pay close attention to what activities or circumstances bring about leakage issues. The most successful treatment for mixed incontinence often involves determining its causes.

When To See a Doctor

Urinary incontinence is often a symptom of an underlying medical condition. While many people assume their incontinence is a normal part of aging, it isn’t.

Many individuals with incontinence can regain bladder control or minimize the frequency of urine leaks. If you are experiencing symptoms, the most important step is seeing your doctor to get a diagnosis and find an effective treatment.

Don’t live with urinary incontinence symptoms any longer – schedule your appointment today!

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