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Types of Incontinence

There are several types of urinary incontinence. It’s important to work with your health care provider to identify the type of incontinence you have so you can get the right treatment.

Stress incontinence

This type of incontinence happens when your pelvic floor muscles have stretched, so pressure on the bladder makes you leak urine. It can happen when you cough, sneeze, laugh, run, jump or lift something heavy and can range from mild to severe. Stress incontinence is more common in women than men.

Urge incontinence

Also called reflex incontinence or overactive bladder, this type happens when you have a sudden, strong need to urinate. Your bladder receives nerve signals to empty even when you are not prepared to urinate . You might feel like you need to urinate frequently, and you might not make it to the bathroom in time.

With urge incontinence, you may worry about going to places where you’re far from a bathroom or you might need to wait to use a bathroom. You could have an urge to urinate when you hear or touch running water or when you’re having sex. It can also wake you up throughout the night when you’re sleeping. Urge incontinence is more common as you get older.

Mixed incontinence

Mixed incontinence is a combination of stress incontinence and urge incontinence. With it, you leak urine because of pressure on the bladder and you also have a strong urge to urinate. This type is also more common in women than men.

Overflow incontinence

You could have overflow incontinence when your bladder doesn’t empty all the way, so it gets overly full and you leak urine frequently or continuously. Overflow incontinence happens when your bladder muscles are weak or blockages keep urine from flowing normally. This type of incontinence is more common in men than women.

Functional incontinence

If you can’t get to a toilet on time because of physical or cognitive issues (such as dementia, disability or mobility problems), you could experience functional incontinence.

Transient incontinence

This leakage is due to a temporary situation, such as an infection. This type goes away when whatever is causing the incontinence is treated.

Reflux incontinence

A neurological (nervous system) condition that interrupts the signals between your bladder and your brain can cause reflux incontinence. With this type, you don’t sense that you need to urinate, so you leak urine.

Total incontinence

Total incontinence is when you cannot control your urine at all, so it leaks constantly. Physical abnormalities, nerve damage or other medical conditions can cause total incontinence.


Incontinence during sleep is not considered a health problem in children up to age 5. But if bedwetting continues in older children or into adulthood, it should be checked by a provider.

Learn about the factors that may increase your risk for urinary incontinence.