Symptoms and Signs of Incontinence FAQs

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 11/10/2022

Doctor's Notes on Incontinence FAQs

Incontinence refers to the involuntary loss of urine. This loss of urine is commonly due to weak muscles that control the exit of the bladder, or the inability to hold urine when the urge to urinate occurs. Several types of incontinence exist, and the most common styles include stress incontinence, which is associated with coughing, sneezing, or exercising, and urge incontinence, when the bladder feels as if it needs to be relieved immediately, regardless of how much urine is in the bladder.

Symptoms of incontinence include

  • uncontrollable leakage of urine,
  • feeling the need to urinate immediately (urgency),
  • difficulty starting the urine stream (hesitancy),
  • urinating more than usual (frequency),
  • pain or burning with urination (often associated with infection), 
  • blood in the urine,
  • having to get up at night to urinate (nocturia),
  • dripping or dribbling urine after urination is completed, and
  • bearing down to start the urine stream (straining).

What are the treatments for incontinence?

This short treatment section will address only the treatment of incontinence symptoms, not the underlying causes. 

Incontinence treatments may consist of one or several of the following:

  • Behavioral techniques
  • Bladder training
  • Double voiding
  • Scheduled voiding 
  • Fluid and diet methods
  • Kegel exercises (pelvic muscles strengthening
  • Medications
  • Anticholinergics like oxybutynin to calm bladder tissue
  • Alpha-blockers like tamsulosin for urge or incontinence overflow
  • Myrbetriq for urge or incontinence overflow
  • Topical estrogen for urethra and vaginal muscle tone improvement
  • Medical devices
  • Urethral insert to block leakage
  • Pessary – to help support urethral tissues
  • Electrical stimulation to stimulate and strengthen pelvic muscles
  • Other treatments
  • Absorbent pads
  • Catheters
  • Injection of material to help keep the urethra closed
  • Botox injection
  • Nerve stimulators to control overactive bladder
  • Surgery
  • Sling procedure – synthetic mesh to support the urethra or in combination with pelvic prolapse surgery
  • Bladder neck suspension to support the urethra
  • Artificial urinary sphincter to control voiding manually

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