Medically defined, incontinence is an involuntary lack of control of bladder or bowel functions. Despite the misconception that only the elderly suffer from incontinence, it can affect people of all ages and backgrounds. However, it is the elderly, who are most commonly affected.

According to the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC), a little over half of adults ages 65 and older are affected by incontinence. Ranging in severity, incontinence could be a small amount of leakage when you sneeze or urges so strong that you don’t make it to the bathroom in time.

Symptoms of Incontinence

Some people suffering with incontinence may only have minor leaks, while others may wet their clothes almost regularly. There are different kinds of incontinence and each has slightly different symptoms. The main types of incontinence are:


Not the kind that you feel at work or during the Holidays, but the physical kind associated with an increase of stress that puts pressure on the abdomen and bladder, resulting in accidental urine or fecal loss. Coughing, heavy lifting, sex and even laughing can all be triggers.


As the name implies, this form of incontinence is characterized by a sudden, intense urge to urinate, even after the bladder was recently emptied. This may result in frequent trips to the bathroom throughout the day and night.


Overflow incontinence is when the bladder does not empty completely, causing constant or frequent leaking.

Incontinence Causes

While not considered a disease, but rather a result of something being off with the body, it is still highly recommended to see a doctor to rule out any potentially more serious underlying issues. Here are some underlying problems or changes that may cause urinary incontinence:

  • Pregnancy
  • Childbirth
  • Menopause
  • Age
  • Hysterectomy
  • Enlarged prostate
  • Prostate cancer
  • Neurological

Diagnosing Incontinence

When you see a doctor regarding incontinence issues, he will want to determine what kind of incontinence you have to be able to create a treatment plan. Your doctor will likely start with a physical exam and go through your medical history before moving on to tests. From there, they may recommend a number of tests or evaluations, which may include:

  • A urinalysis
  • Keeping a bladder diary
  • Post-void residual measurement

If your doctor is not able to confirm your diagnosis, they perform further testing to rule out different types of incontinence.

What are Treatments for Incontinence?

Incontinence is a frustrating and embarrassing situation, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still lead a high quality of life. Here are some ways to manage incontinence:

Related Articles

Frequently Asked Questions

What is bladder training?

It’s just what it sounds like! Patients either practice controlling the urge, set specific times to visit the bathroom to avoid accidents, or practice double voiding. Double voiding is the idea of completely emptying the bladder by urinating then urinating again after a few minutes.

See All Answers »

What are the causes of fecal incontinence?

Many women suffer from fecal incontinence due to childbirth that caused muscle or nerve damage. However, damage to the rectal muscle or nerves can happen from the strain of chronic constipation. Also, rectal walls may stiffen from surgery or scarring that may cause the inability of the rectum to stretch in order to accommodate the stool. Lastly, there are instances of rectal prolapse or rectocele, where the rectum drops down to the anus or protrudes through the vagina, causing fecal incontinence. 

See All Answers »

Find INCONTINENCE Care In Your Area

Find Senior Caring Options by State
Finding the perfect senior care community is only part of making your loved one’s senior living transition smooth. At SeniorCaring, we know that it is also equally important to be aware of what other community services and resources are available to your family’s senior. Choose your location and find local resources for your senior.