What is the Difference Between Stress and Urge Incontinence?

Oct 23, 2018 8:03:47 AM / by Metro OBGYN Team posted in Women's Issues

Does it feel like your bladder is running your life? Do you find yourself in the bathroom more often than you'd like? If it feels like your bladder is controlling you instead of the other way around, you may be suffering from urinary incontinence. The involuntary loss of control of  urine or bowel movements may be embarrassing, but it’s not uncommon and affects quite a few Americans on a daily basis. According to Voices for PFD, roughly 30 to 50 percent of women suffer from bladder control and one out of every 12 adults may struggle with bowel control.


Among the range of pelvic health disorders, there are five different types of urinary incontinence, but we’ll stick to the two most common ones and discuss what makes them different. So, let’s get to know the difference between stress incontinence and urge incontinence.

What is Stress Incontinence?

Stress Urinary Incontinence (SUI) is caused when there is a loss of urine during physical activities. Once an increase in abdominal pressure occurs within the bladder, it quickly fills with liquid, leading to incontinence. Some activities that cause SUI include:

  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Laughing
  • Heavy Exercising

It’s important to note that some people with stress urinary incontinence occasionally leak when they have allergies or if their bladder is near capacity. Sometimes, people deal with SUI issues when they stand up from a chair or walk a short distance. The severity of these problems vary from person to person, and what is a minor inconvenience to one might be a serious issue to another. In severe cases, the impact on life means that people may limit their social activities and no longer enjoy spending time outside of their home.

What is Urge Incontinence?

Urge incontinence (UI) is similar to SUI, but it’s the quick, sudden urge to pass urine that makes this type different. Urge incontinence is know to make it difficult to reach the restroom in time. When the bladder muscles send information to the brain when it’s full (but it really isn’t) is when the bladder contracts, causing incontinence. Symptoms include:

  • Leakage at unwelcoming times
  • Severe urgency for urination
  • Having more than 8 voids (urination) in 24 hours
  • The “gotta-go-now” sensation
  • Waking up more than twice at night to urinate

UI is a symptom of an overactive bladder (OAB) and it’s best to talk with your provider about whether you may be experiencing OAB or UI. It’s also important to discuss when and how often you leak, as identifying your specific condition may influence treatment of the bladder and potentially lead to other issues like prolapse. Depending on the type of incontinence you are experiencing, your doctor may recommend a course of non-surgical treatment.

Possible Non-Surgical Treatments for SUI and UI Include:
  • Physical Therapy
  • Medications
  • Botox
  • Nerve Stimulation
  • Lifestyle Management Techniques (weight loss, diet change, avoiding tobacco, etc.)

Note: If your case of SUI or UI is severe, surgery may be necessary to alleviate your discomfort, but discuss all options with your provider before that step is needed.

3 Quick Takeaways about Incontinence:

  1. Bladder spasms often lead to urgency incontinence and retraining your bladder may help alleviate those spasms.
  2. Dietary changes may reduce some of these symptoms (ie. avoiding diuretics and sugary beverages, as well as increasing fiber intake).
  3. Try creating a bladder diary if you think you may be suffering from either one of these types of urinary incontinence, as this is helpful information for your provider.

Questions to Ask Your Provider at Metro OBGYN

Whether you're suffering from SUI, UI, or OAB, don’t let incontinence stop you from enjoying your life to the fullest. Most people are hesitant to disclose to their doctor that they are suffering from bladder leakage, but it’s nothing to be embarrassed about and is more common than you might think. You are not alone, and Metro OBGYN is here to help with treatment plans for your specific needs.

Are you ready to take back control? Consult with one of our experienced and knowledgable providers today and take the first steps toward alleviating the discomfort of incontinence.

Struggling with bladder control? If you're experiencing the inability to control your bladder, you're not alone. Learn how to take back control of your urinary incontinence with our free eBook.

Metro OBGYN Team

Written by Metro OBGYN Team

Metro OBGYN is an independently owned practice that provides compassionate, convenient care across the spectrum of women's health services.


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