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Symptoms and Signs of Urinary Incontinence

Doctor's Notes on Urinary Incontinence

Urinary incontinence is involuntary loss of urine. There are four different types of incontinence: stress incontinence that occurs during physical activity, urge incontinence (overactive bladder) in which people cannot hold their urine long enough to get to the toilet in time, mixed incontinence that is a combination of stress and urge incontinence, and overflow incontinence that occurs because the bladder is too full and urine passively leaks or overflows through the urinary sphincter.

Symptoms of urinary incontinence vary depending on the type. Symptoms of stress incontinence include various amounts of urine escaping suddenly with an increase in intra-abdominal pressure (for example, when the abdomen tenses). People with stress incontinence usually do not have urinary frequency or urgency or need to wake up at night to go to the bathroom. Symptoms of urge incontinence include uncontrolled urine loss associated with a strong need to go to the bathroom that is often sudden and rapid and occurs without warning. The entire contents of the bladder are emptied. Other symptoms include frequent urination, urgency, and nighttime urination. Symptoms of overflow incontinence may include small amounts of urine leaking continuously.

Medical Author: John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP
Medically Reviewed on 3/11/2019


Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.