A leaky bladder is what causes some people to experience occasional, minor leaks of urine and others to soil their clothes frequently.
Types of urinary incontinence include:
- Stress incontinence. Urine leaks when you exert pressure on your bladder by coughing, sneezing, laughing, exercising or lifting something heavy.
- Urge incontinence. Sudden, intense urges to urinate followed by an involuntary loss of urine. You may need to urinate often, including throughout the night. Urge incontinence may be caused by a minor condition such as infection, or a more severe condition such as neurologic disorder or diabetes.
- Overflow incontinence. Frequent or constant dribbling of urine due to a bladder that doesn't empty completely.
- Functional incontinence. A physical or mental impairment that keeps you from making it to the toilet in time. For example, if you have severe arthritis, you may not be able to unbutton your pants quickly enough.
- Mixed incontinence. A combination of more than one type of urinary incontinence.
When to see a doctor
You may feel uncomfortable discussing incontinence with your doctor. But if incontinence is frequent or affecting your quality of life, it's important to seek medical advice. Urinary incontinence may:
- Indicate a more serious underlying condition
- Diminish your quality of life if you are restricting your activities and limiting your social interactions
- Increase the risk of falls in older adults as they rush to the toilet