There are different types of female urinary incontinence (UI). The most common types in women are stress urinary incontinence (SUI) and urge incontinence, also called overactive bladder (OAB). Many women often have symptoms found in more than one category (i.e., mixed incontinence).
Overactive Bladder (OAB)
Overactive bladder (OAB) is a complex condition affecting about 15 percent of women across all ages. It can be costly, embarrassing and result in avoiding social activities for fear of leakage. Age increases the risk for OAB as do some bladder conditions (infection, bladder stones, or abnormal growths). For some women, the cause is unknown.
Also called urge incontinence, OAB is leakage of urine accompanied by a sensation of the need to urinate, or the impending sense that a large leak is going to happen. Other symptoms include:
- Frequency—the need to rush to the bathroom, more than 8 voids in each 24 hours.
- Urgency—that gotta-go now sensation, a powerful urge to urinate, which is difficult to put off.
- Nocturia—waking up twice or more at night to urinate.
Unlike stress incontinence, OAB usually means a bladder “squeeze” or contraction occurs at an unwelcome time. You may notice severe urgency and leakage when driving into the driveway, placing the key in the front door, running water, or with temperature changes. Some women with OAB also have urinary incontinence.
OAB is a very common condition. However, we know less about OAB compared with stress incontinence. There may be an underlying reason. For example, neurologic or inflammatory conditions. Yet, for most woman, the cause is unknown. Either way, the effects of overactive bladder (urge incontinence) can be significant.
Stress Urinary Incontinence
Stress urinary incontinence (SUI) is loss of urine that occurs at the same time as physical activities that increase abdominal pressure (such as sneezing, coughing, laughing, and exercising). For women with stress incontinence:
- These activities can increase the pressure within the bladder, which acts like a balloon filled with liquid.
- The rise in pressure can push urine out through the urethra, especially when the support to the urethra weakens.
- The result is incontinence caused by the stress.
Some women leak occasionally. For example, when they exercise aggressively, have colds or allergies, or their bladder is very full. Other women have a great deal of leakage with simple activities such as getting up out of a chair, or simple walking. Although the severity may vary, many women find that these symptoms begin to limit their physical or social activities, and can have a serious impact on quality of life.
Bladder Control Quiz
It’s quick, easy, and informative! And, for your eyes only—unless you choose to share it with loved ones or your doctor. Take the Bladder Control Quiz can help you determine if you are experiencing bladder control problems associated with possible pelvic floor disorder. It also provides advice on the next steps to take in order to improve your pelvic health.
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