Health & Medicine

Understanding the difference between stress incontinence and urge incontinence

According to a report released last year by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics, half of the U.S. population has experienced urinary leakage or accidental bowel leakage.

Incontinence often occurs when muscles are too active or too weak. The two most common types of incontinence are stress incontinence and urge incontinence.

Stress incontinence is when pressure from above overwhelms the ability of the bladder to keep urine from leaking.

For example, one may experience urinary leakage when coughing, sneezing, laughing or lifting something heavy. Urine flow is controlled by the urethral sphincter, but when the sphincter muscle is not able to squeeze the urethra tube closed, you experience stress incontinence. Typically stress incontinence is experienced with an acute sharp increase of pressure and leakage, rather than a rush of fluid/urine.

Stress incontinence can be helped by Kegel exercises, a tightening of the pelvic floor muscles.

Urge incontinence, on the other hand, is the result of detrusor over-activity. The detrusor is a muscle in the lining of the bladder that typically applies the "squeeze" during urination to help empty the bladder.

Urge incontinence can be caused by a neurological issue like multiple sclerosis or a stroke, or due to an environmental impact, such as the bladder being irritated by certain foods or drinks, a drop in estrogen levels that occurs in women as they age, or a change in bladder position due to prolapse, or following a hysterectomy or damage from pregnancy and/or labor/delivery.

Urge incontinence is most commonly associated with a sense of urge, thus the name. You may be hit with a sudden, strong urge to urinate, but you are not given enough time to react; a gush of urine escapes.

Talk with your physician to determine which treatment is best for you by carefully weighing the options and understanding the impact incontinence is having on your daily life. Your physician should recommend what he or she thinks is the best approach for you by utilizing the information you provide to them regarding symptoms, bother and what is noted on examination and with diagnostic procedures.

Take the opportunity to be involved in your healthcare and the decision-making process. It is the best way to end up with satisfying result.