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How Do I Tell What Kind of Incontinence I Have?

The symptoms tell you what kind of urinary incontinence you have.

Not all incontinence is long term. Some causes are temporary so that the incontinence ends when the cause goes away. Vaginal infections can cause temporary incontinence. Irritation, medications, constipation and restricted mobility can cause it.  Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are a common cause of temporary incontinence and should be addressed.

It remains important that if the cause isn't temporary or easily treated, the leakage is probably one of the four types described above. With SUI, the pelvis or sphincter muscles (or both) aren't strong enough to hold the urine by closing the bladder and urethra. With OAB, the bladder muscles contract too much, pushing urine out even when you are not ready to release it. Mixed incontinence is usually both SUI and OAB. With overflow incontinence, the bladder gets too full without releasing.

These are the symptoms for each:

SUI

The key symptom of SUI is leaking when you are active. The activity and amount of leaking depends on how severe the SUI is. To learn more about SUI, visit our SUI article page and www.UrologyHealth.org/SUI.

OAB

Normal vs. Overactive Bladder
Normal vs. Overactive Bladder
Image © 2003 Fairman Studios, LLC.

The main symptom of OAB is a sudden, strong urge to urinate that you can't control. The urge may or may not cause your bladder to leak urine. To learn more about OAB, visit our OAB article page and www.UrologyHealth.org/OAB.

You can also take this quiz "Think You Have an Overactive Bladder?" Print the questions and answer them. Use your answers talk to your doctor about your symptoms. The quiz will help you and your doctor know which OAB symptoms you have. It will help your doctor figure out how best to treat you.

Mixed incontinence (SUI and OAB)

The symptoms of mixed incontinence include leaking and a sudden, strong urge to urinate. Mixed incontinence is when you have more than one type of incontinence. Most often, people with mixed incontinence have SUI and OAB.

To find out more about SUI, visit our SUI article page and www.UrologyHealth.org/SUI.
To find out more about OAB, visit our OAB article page and www.UrologyHealth.org/OAB.

Overflow Incontinence

Frequent small urinations and constant dribbling are the main symptoms of overflow incontinence. The bladder is unable to empty. Symptoms happen when the bladder is full. This type is less often in women however, dropped bladders, prior bladder surgeries or diabetes may affect this. It is more common in men with a history of prostate problems or surgery.