What Is Incontinence?

Urinary incontinence is the inability to control the release of urine from your bladder, and it affects more than 13 million Americans. Women are twice as likely as men to experience urinary incontinence, and it is particularly common in older people. Incontinence is not an inevitable result of aging, but can be related to certain diseases, use of medication and other conditions associated with aging.

Urinary incontinence affects people in several different ways, including:

  • Stress urinary incontinence: Caused by coughing, exercising, laughing, sneezing or lifting heavy objects
  • Urge urinary incontinence (overactive bladder): Sudden, intense urge to urinate
  • Overflow urinary incontinence: Inability to empty bladder completely
  • Mixed urinary incontinence: Multiple types of urinary incontinence
  • Functional urinary incontinence: Caused by another impairment impeding ability to make it to the toilet in time
  • Total urinary incontinence: Continuous incontinence, day and night

In addition to urinary incontinence, urologists at Northwestern Medicine can address the following conditions: 

  • Fecal incontinence: The inability to control bowel movements
  • Neurogenic bladder: Incontinence due to a neuromuscular or movement disorder
  • Nocturia: Needing to get up and urinate at night
  • Nocturnal polyuria: Higher than average urine output at night

If you have a problem with incontinence, don’t wait to seek help. There are a variety of effective treatments and procedures to treat incontinence in both men and women. You should see a physician if you find your daily routine is frequently interrupted by incontinence. It can indicate a more serious underlying health issue and should be diagnosed by a urologist.