Types of Incontinence in Women

People use a lot of different terms to describe incontinence, including: sensitive bladder, bladder leakage, overactive bladder and urine leaks, and there are a few more medical terms to describe the different types of incontinence in women. At TENA®, we call incontinence the Unexpected Leak™. The symptoms described below should help you start to identify your type.

Do you leak when coughing, sneezing, laughing or doing heavy lifting?

This is Stress Urinary Incontinence (SUI), which is usually shortened to Stress Incontinence. Of the types of incontinence in women, stress incontinence is the most common. It is the most common type of female incontinence. It happens when the pelvic floor muscles that support the bladder have become weakened. Laughing and coughing increase pressure on the bladder, and the pelvic floor muscles are unable to tighten enough to keep all the urine in. There are usually only small amounts, but in some cases it can be more. If you have a small leak or just dribbles, you may want to try Pantiliners & Ultra Thin Pads.

Stress incontinence is more common during pregnancy, after childbirth and after the age of 40, yet it can happen to women of any age. In fact, 1 out of 3 women experiences stress urinary incontinence at some point in their lives, and around 40% of young women experience it when doing sports. Pelvic floor exercises -- also known as Kegel exercises -- can help. Find out more about incontinence exercises for women. We recommend trying TENA pads for stress incontinence.

Do you experience sudden urges to urinate?

This is Urge Incontinence, often referred to as an overactive bladder. This is when you experience a sudden urge to urinate and the bladder involuntarily expels urine. There is usually little warning and moderate to large amounts of urine leakage. The average person empties their bladder between 4 and 8 times a day, but if you find that you need to urinate more frequently than you feel is usual for you, even perhaps waking several times during the night on a regular basis, this could be a symptom of Urge Incontinence.

The exact cause of this type of incontinence is not known, but it’s thought that the bladder muscles send incorrect signals to the brain indicating that the bladder is fuller than it actually is. In certain cases you can ‘train’ your bladder not to do this by practicing pelvic floor exercises. Most people manage the symptoms of urge incontinence with protective pads or underwear. TENA’s complete line of incontinence products offers discretion and security, so you can minimize the impact of Urge Incontinence and lead a full and active life. You’ll find information about our products and the opportunity to purchase them in our Products section.

Could you have mixed symptoms?

Some women experience Mixed Incontinence. It will usually be a combination of Stress Incontinence and Urge Incontinence. If you have both types of incontinence you will usually find that one is more prominent than the other. We recommend trying Protective Underwear or Adult Briefs.

Do you have a physical or mental condition that makes it difficult for you to reach the bathroom in time?

Another type of incontinence is the inability to reach the bathroom in time because of the difficulties caused by a physical or mental illness, and this is known as Functional Incontinence. The security and confidence you get from incontinence protection can help make this condition less stressful.

Do you have a neurological illness or brain injury?

Illnesses such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, Spina Bifida, Multiple Sclerosis or accidental brain damage can interfere with the way the bladder and brain communicate, leading to an inability to control the bladder or empty it completely. These are known as Neurological Bladder Disorders.

If you have not been able to determine your type of incontinence from the information provided here, we advise you to contact a healthcare professional for a personal assessment.

Want to learn more about incontinence related terms, including different incontinence product types? Visit our Incontinence Glossary for a guide to incontinence definitions.

* The site does not offer medical advice and nothing contained in the site is intended to constitute professional advice for medical diagnosis or treatment.

I have stress incontinence with light to moderate leakage, and I rely on TENA, especially when I go out to run errands, etc.

- TENA® Customer in Louisville, KY

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