Urinary Incontinence

What is Urinary Incontinence?

Normal urinary function relies on intricate coordination of muscles, organs, and nerves in the pelvis. When a problem occurs in any one of these areas, maintaining normal urinary control can become difficult, causing involuntary loss of urine, known as urinary incontinence.

There are several different types of urinary incontinence and it is possible to have more than one type at the same time. These include:

  • Stress - loss of bladder control upon sneezing, coughing, laughing, running, or heavy lifting
  • Urge – loss of urine with a strong, sudden need to urinate
  • Mixed - a combination of the aforementioned two
  • Overflow – an involuntary release of urine from an overfull bladder, frequently without any urge to urinate
  • Nocturnal Enuresis - nighttime bed-wetting

Incontinence is most often caused by:

  • Childbirth
  • Weak bladder or pelvic floor muscles
  • Vaginal prolapse
  • Hormonal changes following menopause
  • Sudden increase in bladder pressure
  • Interstitial cystitis
  • Excessive consumption of caffeine or alcohol
  • Weak bladder or pelvic floor muscles
  • Pelvic organ prolapse
  • Injuries to the brain or spinal cord
  • Neurological disorders
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Constipation


Depending on the cause, incontinence can be either temporary or long-lasting; the type of incontinence will determine the course of treatment.  A simple examination of the urine may help identify causes and conditions. Further specialized tests such as urodynamic, endoscopic, and ultrasound imaging will provide more extensive evaluation and insight. You may be asked to keep a diary for a period of time, tracking what you drink and when your body voids it. Treatment can include therapeutic injections, medications, surgical and non-surgical treatments, and self-catheterization. Incontinence may also be managed by making changes to your lifestyle. Your doctor may recommend daily Kegel exercises, integrating foods into your diet to avoid constipation, and smoking cessation (as nicotine can irritate the bladder).

Incontinence can greatly affect quality of life. Working closely with our urogynecology specialists will start you on the path to putting you back in control of your life, instead of your bladder controlling you.