Urinary incontinence is an underdiagnosed and underreported condition. In a study involving 2,763 postmenopausal women (mean age: 67 years), 56 percent reported urinary incontinence at least weekly.

Despite the high prevalence of urinary incontinence, fewer than one half of patients with urinary incontinence consult physicians about the problem.

Types of Urinary Incontinence

Accurate diagnosis of urinary incontinence depends on a consideration of all possible causes during the initial assessment. Most cases of urinary incontinence fall under one of the following six major subtypes:

Stress incontinence
Overactive bladder
Mixed incontinence
Overflow incontinence
Lack of continuity or deformity, or
Functional incontinence.

Stress Incontinence
Stress incontinence is the involuntary loss of urine during an increase of intra-abdominal pressure produced from activities such as coughing, laughing or exercising. The underlying abnormality is typically urethral hypermobility caused by a failure of the normal anatomic supports of the urethrovesical junction (or bladder neck). Normally, increased intra-abdominal pressure is transmitted evenly across the bladder body and neck, but when poor anatomic support allows the bladder neck to be displaced outside the abdominal cavity during such activities as coughing or laughing, a disproportionate rise in bladder pressure over urethral pressure results in urine loss. Loss of bladder neck support is often attributed to nerve, muscle and connective tissue injury occurring during vaginal delivery; however, vaginal childbirth is not the only contributing factor.

The lack of normal intrinsic pressure within the urethra, known as intrinsic urethral sphincter deficiency is another factor leading to stress incontinence. Advanced age, inadequate estrogen levels, previous vaginal surgery and certain neurologic lesions are associated with poor urethral sphincter function. The diagnosis is made by a combination of assessing the severity of leakage and conducting specialized tests such as urodynamics and cysto-urethroscopy.

Overactive Bladder
Involuntary loss of urine preceded by a strong urge to void, whether or not the bladder is full, is a symptom of the condition commonly referred to as "urge incontinence." The term "overactive bladder" describes a clinical syndrome that includes not only urge incontinence, but urgency, frequency, dysuria and nocturia as well. Other commonly used terms such as detrusor instability and detrusor hyperreflexia refer to involuntary detrusor contractions observed during urodynamic studies.
TABLE 1 - Key Questions in Evaluating Patients for Urinary Incontinence
Do you leak urine when you cough, laugh, lift something or sneeze? How often?*

Do you ever leak urine when you have a strong urge on the way to the bathroom? How often?

How frequently do you empty your bladder during the day?

How many times do you get up to urinate after going to sleep?

Is it the urge to urinate that wakes you?

Do you ever leak urine during sex?

Do you wear pads that protect you from leaking urine?

How often do you have to change them?**

Do you ever find urine on your pads or clothes and were unaware of when the leakage occurred?**

Does it hurt when you urinate?

Do you ever feel that you are unable to completely empty your bladder?


@sexy12, Egypt

relax idea of exam i like that exam (Amanda)

@JoeHeller, United States

It's super cereal. You should put your damn grandma in a wheelchair and take her to a doctor.


@sulochana, India

My mother is 86. She passes urine on laughing, coughing etc. She canot move out because of incontinence. So I can't take her to a doctor.She is not diabetic. Can somebody please suggest a tested medicine for it. Thanks.

@Lisa4588, United States

After my stroke is when it started for me. I'm sure that is just one of the results but can it be corrected without a pill?

@esco198025, United States

Urinary Incontinence is a serious problem. I know, I had to deal with it with my mom/ This is a great article and will help many women