By Jeremy Lieb, MD
The first step in treating incontinence is a diagnosis. There are two main types of incontinence which require different methods of treatment: stress incontinence and urgency incontinence. Patients may have one type of incontinence, but it is also common to have both, depending on medical circumstances.
Stress Incontinence: Urinary incontinence occurs after the bladder experiences involuntary pressure during activities such as laughing, sneezing, lifting, straining or coughing.
This type of incontinence is common in women who have experienced childbirth, and is highly treatable. The stress that pregnancy can place on the vagina, pelvic floor muscles and ligaments holding the bladder can cause the bladder to lower and place additional pressure on the urinary system, resulting in stress incontinence.
Urgency Incontinence: Urinary incontinence occurs unexpectedly, and is triggered by surroundings or circumstances, accompanied with the frequent urge to urinate regardless of how full or empty the bladder may be.
Examples of urge incontinence triggers are feeling the uncontrollable urge to urinate upon hearing running water or drinking a small amount of water. Those with urge incontinence may also suffer from loss of bladder control while sleeping. Inappropriate bladder contractions are a common cause of urge incontinence, which can be triggered by abnormal nerve signals in the body.
Damage to the nervous system (spinal cord and brain) as well as nerve or muscle damage to the bladder affects urinary control. This damage can occur as a result of surgical treatment, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and stroke. Medical conditions such as hyperthyroidism and uncontrolled diabetes may also cause urge incontinence.
For information on additional incontinence types such as Overactive Bladder, Functional Incontinence and Overflow Incontinence, visit Kinds of Urinary Incontinence.