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What is Urinary Incontinence?

Incontinence is the involuntary leakage of urine from the bladder. There are different types of urinary incontinence and it's important to make an accurate diagnosis so that you can get the appropriate treatment.

  • stress incontinence
  • urge incontinence
  • mixed incontinence

Sometimes men can develop urinary incontinence after prostate surgery. Follow this link for more information about Post Prostatectomy Incontinence.


Stress Incontinence

Stress urinary incontinence (or SUI) is the involuntary loss of urine during coughing, laughing or physical exertion. SUI occurs when the muscles that control the urine inside the bladder are not strong enough. Please see our section on stress incontinence for further details.

Urge Incontinence

Urge incontinence is the urinary leakage preceded by a sudden urgent desire to pass urine. This common complaint affects over 6% of women and many men also. Please see our section on overactive bladder for further details.

Mixed Incontinence

This is the combination of urge and stress type incontinence.

What causes incontinence?


Incontinence in women usually occurs because of problems with the muscles that help hold or release urine. Three sets of muscles are involved:

  • Bladder muscle - The bladder normally holds 300-400ml of urine. When you're ready to pass urine, the bladder muscle contracts, squeezing urine out through the urethra (the pipe that drains urine out of the body). Sometimes, an overactive bladder muscle can start squeezing before you're ready, making you need to rush to the toilet or causing urine to pass before you can get there (urge incontinence).
  • Sphincter muscles - These muscles are like a valve: they squeeze the urethra and hold the urine in the bladder. When you want to pass urine, the sphincter muscles relax, allowing the urine to escape. If the sphincter muscles are too weak, urine may leak, especially when you cough, laugh or exert yourself (stress incontinence).
  • Pelvic floor muscles - These muscles support all the pelvic organs, and help prevent urinary leakage during exertion. Weakness of these muscles is a common cause of incontinence and is also an important factor in prolapse (bulging of the walls of the vagina).

Incontinence in men

Men can have overactive bladders and urge incontinence just as women do. In men, urinary problems are commonly associated with prostate problems such as benign prostate enlargement.

Men can also develop urinary incontinence after prostate surgery, especially Radical Prostatectomy performed for prostate cancer. Follow this link for more information about post-prostatectomy incontinence.