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What’s the Difference Between Stress Incontinence and Urge Incontinence?

Incontinence is one of the most common women’s health issues that no one wants to talk about. Over 40% of women over the age of 65 have some degree of incontinence, but that doesn’t mean it’s an inevitable part of aging. In most cases, if you talk to your trusted gynecologist or urologist about your symptoms, they can identify the type and cause of your incontinence and provide customized treatment to prevent urine leakage. 

Here at Healthcare for Women in Oak Park and North Riverside, Illinois, our experienced OB/GYN and gynecological surgeon, Dr. Lyndon Taylor, can diagnose and treat your incontinence. His first step? Determining if you have stress incontinence or urge incontinence.

Wait, there’s more than one type of incontinence?

Yes, there are several types of incontinence, but the most common are stress incontinence and urge incontinence.

Stress Incontinence

If you leak a little urine when you laugh, cough, or put in a few miles on the treadmill, chances are you have stress incontinence. This type of incontinence occurs when you inadvertently stress your pelvic floor, and the muscles that support your bladder and urethra aren’t strong enough to keep urine from leaking out. 

Stress incontinence is very common in women. Not only does the physical stress of pregnancy and childbirth weaken your pelvic floor, but many women develop a condition called vaginal atrophy when they approach and reach menopause. Vaginal atrophy makes the walls of your vagina become thin, dry, and weak, which further reduces the support available to your pelvic floor. 

Urge incontinence

Urge incontinence, also called overactive bladder, causes an intense and desperate need to urinate, even when there’s not much urine in your bladder. It’s possible to leak a little urine if you can’t make it to the bathroom quickly enough. 

You feel the urge to urinate when your detrusor — bladder muscle — begins to contract. In a healthy bladder, this occurs when your bladder is full. However, when you have urge incontinence, your bladder muscle contracts before your bladder is full. This could be caused by abnormal nerve activity, muscle spasms, or some other identifiable — or unidentifiable — cause.

How we can tell the difference

If you’re suffering from incontinence, we use a variety of tests to evaluate and identify your condition. Some of these tests include:

You should also keep a urination diary, tracking how often you leak urine, how often you urinate, and your fluid intake. This information helps us identify patterns in your symptoms and behaviors.

Different problems, different treatments

We offer customized treatments to address your specific needs. For example, if you have stress incontinence, we might recommend:

However, if you have urge incontinence, we might recommend Botox® injections or nerve stimulation to correct the nerve signals to and from your bladder. Depending on your needs, you might also find that medication to relax the bladder muscle or increase the amount of urine your bladder can hold can help reduce or eliminate your symptoms.

When to talk to the doctor about incontinence

You can speak with Dr. Taylor and the rest of our team here at Healthcare for Women about anything, and you don’t need to feel embarrassed. If you’re experiencing incontinence, call us at one of our locations or make an appointment online today. The earlier we can assess your condition and start treatment, the more quickly your symptoms will subside.

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