by Carmack A

There are many types of urinary incontinence. It can be a condition that's temporary or one that lasts longer. The causes vary based on the type. These are:


The most common causes include:

Talk to your doctor about the medicines you take. If any of them are causing problems, your doctor may change them.

Longer Lasting Incontinence

Longer lasting (sometimes permanent) types of incontinence may be put into these groups. Some people may have more than one type or cause. In some cases, the cause may not be clear.

Stress Incontinence

Stress incontinence happens when certain activities add more pressure on the bladder. Leaking can be triggered by laughing, sneezing, lifting heavy objects, or exercise. This is the most common type of incontinence. It may be caused by problems with:

  • Muscles that support the bladder
  • Sphincter muscles that control the flow of urine
Urge Incontinence

Urge incontinence is loss of bladder control after a strong urge to pass urine. Urine can't be held long enough to make it to a bathroom. This is also known as an overactive bladder. It may be caused by:

Overflow Incontinence

This type happens when the bladder is full. The pressure caused by an overfull bladder is higher than the strength needed to hold urine in. It may be caused by:

  • A blocked bladder—can happen from a scar in the tube that carries urine from the body
  • Thick, hard stool is stuck in the rectum—fecal impaction
  • Certain medicines such as those that treat mental health problems, colds, allergies, or high blood pressure
  • Weak bladder muscles
  • Nerve damage because of:
    • Surgery
    • Diabetes
    • Spinal cord injury

When nerve controls to your bladder are absent, the bladder will empty when it reaches a certain volume. This is called a neurogenic bladder. If you have this, you will learn how to drain urine at set times or with a catheter placed into the bladder.

Functional Incontinence

Your bladder control may be perfectly normal. But, any health problem that slows you down or confines you may result in loss of urine. This is called functional incontinence. It often happens with the other types. Some causes include:

  • You have problems moving around
  • Weak muscles
  • You can’t find or get to a restroom
  • Dementia—changes how the brain works and how a person functions

Other Causes of Incontinence


Sometimes, a channel opens between the bladder and the outside world. This isn’t normal and isn’t supposed to be there. It can be present from birth, or because of an injury or surgery. A fistula causes continuous, uncontrolled urine dribbling. It can be fixed with surgery.


Definition & facts for bladder control problems (urinary incontinence). National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at: Updated June 2018. Accessed January 16, 2019.

Urinary incontinence. Urology Care Foundation website. Available at: Accessed January 16, 2019.

Urinary incontinence in adults. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: Updated July 2018. Accessed January 16, 2019.

Urinary incontinence in men. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: . Accessed December 4, 2018. Accessed January 16, 2019.

Urinary incontinence in women. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: . Accessed November 14, 2018. Accessed January 16, 2019.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Adrienne Carmack, MD
  • Review Date: 12/2018
  • Update Date: 01/16/2019