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Urinary incontinence can happen to people of all ages. To gain a better understanding of urinary incontinence, it is important to understand the different types of incontinence. This will better prepare you for the supplies and/or treatment you will need.




StressLeakage of small amounts of urine during physical movement (coughing, sneezing, exercising).Pads and liners
UrgeLeakage of large amounts of urine at unexpected times, including during sleep.

Adult Briefs and Diapers

Incontinence Underwear


Overactive BladderUrinary frequency and urgency, with or without urge incontinence.

Adult Briefs and Diapers

Incontinence underwear


FunctionalUntimely urination because of physical disability, external obstacles, or problems in thinking or communicating that prevent a person from reaching a toilet.

Adult Briefs and Diapers

Incontinence underwear


OverflowUnexpected leakage of small amounts of urine because of a full bladder.

Pads and liners


MixedUsually the occurrence of stress and urge incontinence together.

Adult Briefs and Diapers

Incontinence underwear


Pads and Liners

TransientLeakage that occurs temporarily because of a situation that will pass (infection, taking a new medication, colds with coughing).

Pads and liners


Stress Incontinence

If coughing, laughing, sneezing, or other movements that put pressure on the bladder cause you to leak urine, you may have stress incontinence. Physical changes resulting from pregnancy, childbirth, and menopause often cause stress incontinence. This type of incontinence is common in women and, in many cases, can be treated. Incontinence pads and liners can also be great alternatives for these kinds of leaks.  

Childbirth and other events can injure the scaffolding that helps support the bladder in women. Pelvic floor muscles, the vagina, and ligaments support your bladder (see figure 2). If these structures weaken, your bladder can move downward, pushing slightly out of the bottom of the pelvis toward the vagina. This prevents muscles that ordinarily force the urethra shut from squeezing as tightly as they should. As a result, urine can leak into the urethra during moments of physical stress. Maternity pads can help with leaks after childbirth until the muscles regain control. Stress incontinence also occurs if the squeezing muscles weaken.  

Stress incontinence can worsen during the week before your menstrual period. At that time, lowered estrogen levels might lead to lower muscular pressure around the urethra, increasing chances of leakage. The incidence of stress incontinence increases following menopause.  


Urge Incontinence

If you lose urine for no apparent reason after suddenly feeling the need or urge to urinate, you may have urge incontinence. A common cause of urge incontinence is inappropriate bladder contractions. Abnormal nerve signals might be the cause of these bladder spasms.  

Urge incontinence can mean that your bladder empties during sleep, after drinking a small amount of water, or when you touch water or hear it running (as when washing dishes or hearing someone else taking a shower). Certain fluids and medications such as diuretics or emotional states such as anxiety can worsen this condition. Some medical conditions, such as hyperthyroidism and uncontrolled diabetes, can also lead to or worsen urge incontinence. If leaks occur at night, incontinence underpads or commonly known as chuck (chux) pads, are helpful. Additionally, briefs and diapers and incontinence underwear are also solutions for urge incontinence leaks.  

Involuntary actions of bladder muscles can occur because of damage to the nerves of the bladder, to the nervous system (spinal cord and brain), or to the muscles themselves. Multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, stroke, and injury—including injury that occurs during surgery—all can harm bladder nerves or muscles.  


Overactive Bladder

Overactive bladder occurs when abnormal nerves send signals to the bladder at the wrong time, causing its muscles to squeeze without warning. Voiding up to seven times a day is normal for many women, but women with overactive bladder may find that they must urinate even more frequently.  

Specifically, the symptoms of overactive bladder include  

  • urinary frequency—bothersome urination eight or more times a day or two or more times at night  
  • urinary urgency—the sudden, strong need to urinate immediately  
  • urge incontinence—leakage or gushing of urine that follows a sudden, strong urge  
  • nocturia—awaking at night to urinate 
  • There are several incontinence products that can help protect against leaks such as underpads (chuck pads) for nighttime or sitting, or briefs and diapers and disposable underwear for large surges of urine.  


    Functional Incontinence

    People with medical problems that interfere with thinking, moving, or communicating may have trouble reaching a toilet. A person with Alzheimer's disease, for example, may not think well enough to plan a timely trip to a restroom. A person in a wheelchair may have a hard time getting to a toilet in time. Functional incontinence is the result of these physical and medical conditions. Conditions such as arthritis often develop with age and account for some of the incontinence of elderly women in nursing homes.  

    There are several incontinence products that can help protect against leaks such as underpads (chux pads) for nighttime or sitting, or briefs and diapers and disposable underwear for large surges of urine. Catheters can also be an option.  


    Overflow Incontinence

    Overflow incontinence happens when the bladder doesn't empty properly, causing it to spill over. Your doctor can check for this problem. Weak bladder muscles or a blocked urethra can cause this type of incontinence. Nerve damage from diabetes or other diseases can lead to weak bladder muscles; tumors and urinary stones can block the urethra. Overflow incontinence is rare in women. Pads and liners, as well as underpads (chucks pads), can help protect against these kinds of leaks.  


    Other Types of Incontinence

    Stress and urge incontinence often occur together in women. Combinations of incontinence—and this combination in particular—are sometimes referred to as mixed incontinence. Most women don't have pure stress or urge incontinence, and many studies show that mixed incontinence is the most common type of urine loss in women.  

    Transient incontinence is a temporary version of incontinence. Medications, urinary tract infections, mental impairment, surgery, and restricted mobility can all trigger transient incontinence. Severe constipation can cause transient incontinence when the impacted stool pushes against the urinary tract and obstructs outflow. A cold can trigger incontinence, which resolves once the coughing spells cease. For temporary incontinence, there is a wide variety of products to protect against leaks depending on the duration of incontinence and amount of leaks. Pads and liners are typically used for temporary incontinence.  



    Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

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