Types of Bladder Incontinence

Causes and Treatments

There are many different types of bladder incontinence but the most common are listed below along with some management tips. Review briefly and see if you can easily identify contributing factors to your loved one's incontinence.


Stress Incontinence

Stress incontinence refers to bladder leakage that occurs with abdominal “stress”. That can include coughing, sneezing, standing up, laughing etc. Kegel Exercises can be effective in treating this type of incontinence.

toileting schedule, incontinence

Overflow Incontinence

This term refers to an “overflow” of urine, usually resulting in a large amount of urine spilled. This can occur when someone tries to hold urine for too long, especially if it is not easy or practical to use the toilet frequently. Another cause is not completely emptying the bladder when using the toilet.

One of the easiest management tips is a toileting schedule: encourage and/or assist your loved one to the toilet on a set schedule, at a minimum of every 3-6 hours, and always upon awaking, before and after meals and at bedtime. This bladder retraining can be effective in up to 50% of cases.

Another tip is to double void, which means urinate, wait a few seconds and apply gentle pressure directly over the bladder, and urinate again to make sure that the bladder is completely empty.

Urge Incontinence

Like its name implies, urge incontinence is a sudden urge to urinate along with little or no bladder control. It is common among older adults and can be caused by injury, illness or previous surgeries.

This is commonly called over active bladder and simply means that once the urge strikes, a person has little time to make it to the bathroom before an accident occurs. Management consists of a toileting schedule, described above, as well as Kegel Exercises.

Structural Incontinence

This refers to an anatomical interference affecting the ability to urinate. Previous pelvic floor surgeries and enlarged prostate are two of the causes. Please have your doctor evaluate if you believe there may be a structural component in your loved one’s incontinence.

symptom of depression, incontinence

Functional Incontinence

If an inability to function on any level results in incontinence, it is referred to as functional incontinence. This also includes an unwillingness to use the toilet, which can be a symptom of depression.

If you think your loved one is demonstrating any signs or symptoms of depression, please talk to your doctor. Do not assume that the only help is medication. There are many conservative and natural approaches to treating depression that don’t involve prescription medications as a first option.


Most types of bladder incontinence in the elderly is considered “mixed incontinence”. A little bit of this type ... a little of that type. What I recommend you do is develop your own plan to manage incontinence in your home, reviewing the above causes and begin implementing some strategies that apply, adding more as you go but only if needed.

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