What are the Symptoms of Urinary Incontinence?

January 10, 2024
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Are you leaking urine without any warning? Are you struggling to control leaking urine when you cough or sneeze? You could be suffering from a urinary incontinence.

Urinary incontinence can affect both men and women. However, it is more common among women. It is a common condition that affects many women, especially after childbirth. Come let’s get to know more about urinary incontinence in women and how you can gain back control.

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What is Urinary Incontinence?

The loss of bladder control is known as urinary incontinence. It is a condition that can affect women of varying age groups. The severity also varies from case to case. While some women may accidentally leak urine while coughing or sneezing, some women may want to urinate more frequently.

Urinary Incontinence Types

Urinary incontinence can be of 4 types

  1. Urgency Incontinence – As the name suggests, women suffering from this type of urinary incontinence will want to urinate urgently. Sometimes, they can’t even control their urine until they reach the restroom. The urge to urinate is strong and urgent and these women will be visiting the toilet quite frequently. This type of incontinence can also be due to some other underlying health condition,
  2. Stress Incontinence – Every time there is stress over the bladder, it will leak urine. Sneezing, coughing or lifting something heavy will put pressure on the bladder. When the bladder is unable to stand this pressure and leaks urine, it is stress incontinence.
  3. Functional Incontinence – Old age and other health conditions can reduce mobility. When a woman leaks urine because she is unable to reach the toilet due to physical limitations, it is functional incontinence.
  4. Overflow Incontinence – When the body produces more urine than the bladder can hold, it will start overflowing and leaking. This is overflow incontinence.

Some women may suffer from more than one type of incontinence. In most cases, it is a combination of urgency or urge incontinence and stress incontinence. These women may leak urine when they sneeze or cough and will also want to use the restroom as soon as they get the urge to urinate.

Urinary Incontinence Causes

The causes of urinary incontinence are very closely linked to the type of incontinence. Some of the common causes of incontinence are:

  • Old age
  • Stroke
  • Surgery – prostate surgery, C-section, surgery in the bladder or any pelvic floor organ
  • Enlargement or inflammation in the prostate gland
  • Injury or damage to the bladder nerve endings
  • Pelvic organ prolapses adding pressure to the urethra
  • Health conditions like diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, arthritis or multiple sclerosis
  • Weak pelvic floor muscles
  • Overactive bladder muscles
  • Pregnancy and childbirth
  • Chronic constipation
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Defect from birth
  • Urinary stones
  • Tumors or cysts in the bladder
  • Spinal cord injury, affecting the nerve endings.

What are the Main Symptoms of Urinary Incontinence?

Some of the main symptoms of urinary incontinence are:

  • You feel the need to urinate very frequently
  • You leak urine when you sneeze, cough or even laugh
  • You are unable to control your urine until you reach the toilet
  • You started leaking urine around the time of your surgery and it still continues
  • You leak urine or feel wet without realizing you are leaking urine
  • You are unable to empty your bladder fully. You don’t feel you have emptied the bladder even after visiting the toilet.

Urinary Incontinence Diagnosis

Your doctor may use the following to confirm a diagnosis of urinary incontinence:

  • Physical exam of the vagina and the pelvic floor muscles in case of females and rectum in case of males, to check for enlargement of prostate gland
  • Urine analysis to check for UTIs
  • Blood tests to check kidney function
  • An ultrasound of the pelvis to check for abnormalities
  • Stress test – the doctor will check for urine leaks while asking you to apply sudden pressure
  • Your doctor will ask you to maintain a bladder diary to record the number of visits to the toilet, the number of accidents or leaks, how much water or liquids you consume and the duration between toilet visits.
  • Urodynamic testing to check how much pressure the bladder and urinary sphincter can withstand
  • An X-ray of the bladder
  • Postvoid residual measurement to check how much urine is left after a toilet visit
  • Cystoscopy to check for abnormalities in the urinary tract.

Urinary Incontinence Treatment

Urinary incontinence has multiple treatment options. The treatment will depend on the type and severity of the incontinence and the age of the patient.

The treatment options for urinary incontinence are:

  • Bladder Training – In this treatment, the doctor will help improve your pelvic floor muscle strength and train your bladder for better control.
  • Medications – can be oral or topical
  • Medical devices such as – urethral inserts, pessary or sacral nerve stimulator
  • A Botox injection in the bladder control an overactive bladder
  • Injecting bulking agents into the tissues surrounding the urethra to help keep it closed
  • Surgeries such as a sling procedure, colposuspension or insertion of an artificial sphincter

Urinary incontinence treatment for the elderly will differ from treatments for new mothers or younger women.

  • In case of a pelvic organ prolapse, the doctor might surgically lift the bladder or use a mesh to hold the bladder in place, to reduce the stress on the urethra
  • In case of total incontinence in old age, the doctor can insert a catheter to collect the urine in a bag
  • One of the simplest options would be adult diapers.


Urinary incontinence may seem like an embarrassing issue to discuss. However, if you do not seek medical help, it can affect your quality of life and also lead to other health issues. With the right treatment at the right time, most urinary incontinence cases can be resolved to a great extent.


1. What are the 4 types of urinary incontinence?

The four types of urinary incontinence are urgency incontinence, overflow incontinence, stress incontinence and functional incontinence.

2. What are the 4 causes of urinary incontinence?

The main causes of urinary incontinence are old age, nerve damage, surgery or UTIs. When the pelvic floor muscles are weak or the bladder is overactive due to various reasons, it can lead to urinary incontinence.

3. How do you detect urinary incontinence?

When you are unable to hold your urine until you reach the toilet or find yourself leaking urine unconsciously, it is a strong symptom of urinary incontinence. A doctor will detect incontinence using physical exams, urine analysis and blood tests.