During urination, nerve signals cause the muscles in the walls of the bladder to contract, forcing urine out of the bladder and into the urethra. At the same time the bladder contracts, nerve signals cause the muscles surrounding the urethra to relax, allowing urine to pass through and out of the body.
Incontinence may occur if the bladder suddenly contracts or if it doesn't contract when it should, leading to a buildup of too much urine in the bladder, which can cause leakage. Incontinence may also occur if the muscles around the urethra are damaged or suddenly relax or if the urethra is blocked, keeping urine from draining properly and causing eventual leakage around the blockage.
Incontinence affects 13 million Americans and occurs twice as often in women as in men.1 Although incontinence occurs more often in older men than in young men, it is not considered a normal part of the aging process.
How is urinary incontinence in men classified?
Urinary incontinence may occur for only a short time (acute) or may become an ongoing problem (chronic). Acute incontinence is often related to other medical problems and treatments. This topic will focus on types of chronic urinary incontinence.
Stress incontinence occurs when you sneeze, cough, laugh, lift objects, or do other activities that increase stress on your bladder.
Urge incontinence is an urge to urinate that is so strong that you often cannot make it to the toilet in time. Urge incontinence occurs when your bladder contracts when it shouldn't. This can happen even when you only have a small amount of urine in your bladder. Overactive bladder is a kind of urge incontinence. Overactive bladder is a kind of urge incontinence. But not everyone with overactive bladder leaks urine.
Overflow incontinence is leakage that occurs when the bladder fails to empty properly, due to a blockage or weak bladder muscle contractions. Obstruction is usually related to either enlargement of the prostate or narrowing of the urethra from scar tissue.
Total incontinence is a continual leakage of urine due to loss of sphincter function.