7 Types of Bladder Leakage Problems

Doctor William C Lloyd Healthgrades Medical Reviewer
Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Mary Elizabeth Dallas on May 28, 2021
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    Urinary Problems and Incontinence
    Bladder leakage occurs when the muscles or nerves that control the release of urine do not work right. Another name for it is incontinence. The leakage might be mild or severe. It might happen every now and then, like when you cough or exercise. Or it might happen much more often and interfere with your daily life. Here are seven types of bladder leakage problems.
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    1. Stress Incontinence
    When urine leaks because of sudden pressure on the muscles of your lower abdomen, that's stress incontinence. A simple cough, laugh or sneeze puts pressure on your bladder. A leak can occur if the muscles and ligaments that support the bladder are weak. This allows the bladder to shift downward. Women often have this type of leakage after pregnancy, childbirth or menopause. Stress incontinence can also develop after an injury or surgery.
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    2. Urge Incontinence
    People with urge incontinence have a strong and sudden need to urinate. The urge may come on so fast that you have only seconds to get to a bathroom. Abnormal contractions of the bladder muscles often cause urge incontinence. This may happen because of:

    Anxiety, uncontrolled diabetes, and medicines like diuretics can make the symptoms of urge incontinence worse.
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    3. Overactive Bladder
    Overactive bladder occurs when nerve signals go to the bladder at the wrong time. This makes the bladder muscles contract before the bladder is full. People with overactive bladder have strong and very sudden urges to urinate. They may need to urinate eight or more times each day. They also often wake up to use the bathroom at least twice during the night. If you have overactive bladder, you may also develop urge incontinence and leak urine.
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    4. Functional Incontinence
    People with functional incontinence have normal bladder control. However, they often cannot get to the bathroom in time. Often, it happens because they cannot walk or get around well. For instance, they might have severe arthritis. Functional incontinence also can occur if a medical problem keeps someone from getting to the toilet on time. Alzheimer's disease is one example.
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    5. Overflow Incontinence
    Your bladder can become too full if it doesn’t empty properly. An overfilled bladder will leak small amounts of urine. That's overflow incontinence. The condition is rare among women. It is more common among men who’ve had prostate surgery or problems. People with overflow incontinence urinate small amounts frequently. They may strain to urinate and feel like they can’t empty their bladders completely. Weak bladder muscles can lead to this type of bladder leakage. It also can result from tumors, an enlarged prostate blocking the urethra, and nerve damage related to diabetes or other diseases.
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    6. Mixed Incontinence
    People who have more than one type of incontinence have mixed incontinence. Most women with bladder leakage problems have both stress and urge incontinence. They may leak urine when they cough, sneeze or exercise. They also may leak urine after a sudden urge to urinate.
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    7. Transient Incontinence
    Transient incontinence occurs when the leakage is temporary, and bladder control should return to normal. The causes of this temporary bladder condition include:

7 Types of Bladder Leakage Problems
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  3. Steers WD. Pathophysiology of overactive Bladder and urge urinary incontinence. Rev Urol. 2002;4(Suppl 4):S7–S18,
  4. Urinary Incontinence in Women. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, 2013. http://kidney.niddk.nih.gov/kudiseases/pubs/uiwomen/
  5. What I Need to Know About Bladder Control For Women. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, 2007. http://kidney.niddk.nih.gov/kudiseases/pubs/bcw_ez/bcw_508.pdf
  6. Your Urinary System and How It Works. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, 2012. http://kidney.niddk.nih.gov/kudiseases/pubs/yoururinary/ - 3. 
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Last Review Date: 2021 May 28
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