Not all bladder control problems are alike. Some problems are caused by weak muscles, while others are caused by damaged nerves. Sometimes the cause may be a medicine that dulls the nerves.
To help solve your problem, your doctor or nurse will try to identify the type of incontinence you have. It may be one or more of the following six types.
As the name suggests, temporary incontinence doesn’t last. You may have an illness, like a urinary tract infection, that causes frequent and sudden urination that you can’t control. Or you may find that a new medicine has the unexpected side effect of increasing your urination. These problems go away as soon as the cause is found and corrected.
If you leak urine when you cough, laugh, sneeze, or exercise, you have stress incontinence. Mental stress does not cause stress incontinence. The “stress” is pressure on the bladder. When your pelvic and sphincter muscles are strong, they can handle the extra pressure from a cough, sneeze, exercise, or laugh. But when those muscles are weak, that sudden pressure can push urine out of the bladder.
An inset shows shows an enlarged view of the bladder with weak pelvic floor muscles that allow urine to escape.
In stress incontinence, weak pelvic muscles can let urine escape when a cough or other action puts pressure on the bladder.
If you leak urine after a strong, sudden urge to urinate, you have urge incontinence. This bladder control problem may be caused by nerve damage from diabetes, a stroke, an infection, or another medical condition.
Mixed incontinence is a mix of stress and urge incontinence. You may leak urine with a laugh or sneeze at one time. At another time, you may have a sudden, uncontrollable urge to urinate just before you leak.
Some people have trouble getting to the bathroom. If you have urine leakage because you can’t walk or have other mobility problems, you have functional incontinence.
If you have to urinate eight or more times a day, you may have an overactive bladder. Getting up to urinate two or more times each night is another sign of overactive bladder. With an overactive bladder, you feel strong, sudden urges to urinate, and you also may have urge incontinence.