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Urinary Incontinence: Types and Prevention

Medically reviewed by Elfred Landas, MD · General Practitioner · Maxicare Primary Care Center

Written by Mayvilyn Cabigao · Updated Jan 21, 2021

Urinary Incontinence: Types and Prevention

Urinary incontinence can be experienced by anyone. It is a medical condition, which gives a person a sudden or frequent urge to urinate and the inability to control the bladder. Anyone can experience urinary incontinence. However, women and those who have special health concerns, have higher risks of having this condition. Although it is not as severe as other medical problems, it is still best if you are aware of how to reduce urinary incontinence.

Causes of Urinary Incontinence

Urinary incontinence usually occurs when the muscles and nerves – responsible for helping the bladder hold and pass urine – weakens or gets damaged. Aside from this, more factors can trigger urinary incontinence, such as:

6 Types of Urinary Incontinence

Before we proceed on how to reduce urinary incontinence, let us first discuss its types. Urinary incontinence is categorized into six different types depending on its symptoms and severity.

1. Stress incontinence

When hearing the word “stress,” your first thought would be about emotions and feelings. However, when talking about stress incontinence, “stress” refers to the pressure applied to the bladder, which causes urinary leakage.

This condition is more common in women and leakage may be experienced with coughing, sneezing or laughing. Sudden movements like bending, squatting, and lifting can also cause urinary leakage.

Experts believe that women who gave birth vaginally are more prone to stress incontinence. Vaginal birth stretches and weakens the pelvic floor muscles and nerves, which results in poorer bladder support.

Stress incontinence also occurs due to aging—especially in menopausal women, men who have undergone surgery, as well as to people with severe lung conditions.

2. Overactive bladder or urgency urinary incontinence

The urgency and frequency to urinate even when the bladder is not full yet is referred to as overactive bladder or urge incontinence. Urinary urgency occurs due to the involuntary contraction of the bladder muscle (detrusor).

A person who suffers from an overactive bladder tends to void multiple times in a day and can also feel the same urge even when sleeping at night, causing disruptive sleep. Most people who have an overactive bladder have difficulty controlling their urine from passing, which results in frequently wetting themselves.

Both men and women can develop an overactive bladder, but it is most common in people who have diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s disease. Men who undergo prostate cancer surgeries and treatments might also have this condition. Also, the physical changes a postmenopausal woman experiences can trigger an overactive bladder.

3. Overflow incontinence

You have overflow incontinence if you cannot empty your bladder completely, which results in leakage. Overflow incontinence happens when something blocks your urine from normally passing. The blockage is usually caused by tumors, bladder stones, and scar tissues.

This urinary problem is more common in men than women, especially to men who have prostate problems. People with diabetes and neurological disorders, as well as those taking certain medications that prevent the bladder muscles from contracting, are also at risk to overflow incontinence.

Overflow incontinence can be frustrating since there is always a need for you to urinate many times a day but only pass a little.

4. Functional incontinence

A perfectly functioning urinary tract is not an assurance that a person will not involuntarily wet oneself. There are instances when people with no urinary problems still wet themselves due to certain illnesses, this is referred to as functional incontinence.

Older adults who suffer from dementia, Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease, those who have had a stroke or have nerve problems, and people with mental illnesses are more prone to functional incontinence. People who are having difficulty getting to the restroom on time due to certain illnesses can still wet themselves even though their urinary tract is in its best shape.

Diuretics or medications that increase the production of urine can also trigger functional incontinence.

5. Reflex incontinence

The involuntary or unexpected urination due to the contraction of the bladder’s detrusor muscles is called reflex incontinence. It is often compared to urgency urinary incontinence since they quite have similarities. However, when you have reflex incontinence, you might expel more urine than a person who has urgency urinary incontinence.

The people at risk of this urinary problem are those who have an acute neurological disability as a result of spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis, or those who have sustained damage from treatments and surgeries.

6. Mixed incontinence

There are occurrences when mixed incontinence takes place. This condition refers to a person who is experiencing two different symptoms from two different types of urinary incontinence. To learn how to reduce urinary incontinence, especially in this case, is to determine the factor that’s triggering the condition.


There are types of urinary incontinence that a person can prevent from developing. But, some will still occur even with so many precautions. Here are some tips on how to reduce urinary incontinence to make your life a little better:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight can help lower your risks of urinary incontinence. If you are overweight or obese, you can easily develop medical conditions that might result in urinary problems. Exercise for at least 30 minutes most days of the week to achieve a healthier body.
  •  Avoid or limit your consumption of food and beverages that contain alcohol, caffeine, and too much acidity. These foods can irritate your bladder and increase your urine production. The best prevention on how to reduce urinary incontinence is to limit the portions of these foods and beverages if you can’t commit to avoiding them entirely.
  • Do pelvic floor exercises that can strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. This is advisable to women who are pregnant and have given birth.


Your doctor can recommend treatments that are tailor-fit to your problems and needs. If the prevention tips on how to reduce urinary incontinence did not help improve your urinary problems, here are treatments you can get:

Behavioral therapy

The techniques you will learn from behavioral therapy can help you limit the things you’re constantly doing that result in your incontinence problems. Your therapist might also teach you how to control your bladder so you can pass your urine without wetting yourself.

Pelvic exercises

Doing pelvic exercises or commonly known as Kegel exercises, can help improve stress incontinence and urgency incontinence. Your doctor might recommend that you get a physical therapist to help you with the right exercises.

Vaginal insert (pessary)

A pessary supports the urethra to prevent leakage. This is advisable to women who have stress incontinence.

Bulking material injections

Synthetic substances are injected into the urethra to thicken its walls and keep it tight to reduce leaking.


Botulinum toxin type A or Botox relaxes bladder muscles of people who suffer from overactive bladder. Botox helps reduce the frequency of the urge to urinate.

Nerve stimulators

If your urinary incontinence is a result of nerve damage, nerve stimulators can help alleviate your frequent urges. An implantable device under the skin of your hip or buttocks, will send electrical impulses to the nerves to control your bladder muscles and reduce urges.

Sling procedures

Surgeries that can help improve stress incontinence are sling procedures. Doctors perform the procedure by creating a sling using a natural or synthetic material around the urethra to provide support.

Before trying out any of these treatments, make sure to consult a doctor, and inform them about your condition. Always ask for prescribed medication, and never self medicate.

Key Takeaways

Urinary incontinence can hinder someone from functioning properly. It can be difficult for people with this condition to do their routine such as having a good sleep since the urges can wake them up in the wee hours of the night.

To immediately prevent urinary incontinence from happening or worsening, it is best if you first find what’s causing it. If you have managed to pinpoint the cause, then it will be easier for you and your doctor to find ways on how to improve your situation.

Treating urinary incontinence will take time. That is why It is important to follow every doctor’s advice so you can live your life without worrying that you might feel the urges again.

Learn more about Urological Health and Bladder Disease, here.


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Elfred Landas, MD

General Practitioner · Maxicare Primary Care Center

Written by Mayvilyn Cabigao · Updated Jan 21, 2021

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