What are the Signs and Symptoms of Urinary Incontinence?

Monika Singh   by Monika Singh, MS    Last updated on October 3, 2019,

signs and symptoms of urinary incontinence


Urinary Incontinence happens when a person loses control over his bladder, thus, resulting in the unintentional passing of urine. In some cases, the bladder empties completely (due to uncontrolled flow), while in the other cases, a person may experience only minor leakages.

Signs of urinary incontinence

There are several signs of urinary incontinence. Broadly, the signs are divided into two categories: emotional signs and sensory signs.

Emotional Signs

Emotional signs do not refer to any physical signs but they refer to the change in the behavior and actions of a patient. Emotional signs are more or less same for all the types of incontinence. Some of the emotional signs of urinary incontinence are given below:

  • depression
  • anger
  • low self-esteem
  • low confidence
  • socially less active
  • desire for Attention

Sensory Signs

Sensory signs are related to the sense organs. These signs can be seen, heard, smelled or felt by a person. The sensory signs of urinary incontinence are listed below:

  • wet undergarments or clothes or bed linen
  • smell of urine
  • itching, irritation and inflammation of the perineum
  • accidents while engaged in physical activity, sneezing, laughing

Other Symptoms of urinary incontinence

The symptoms of urinary incontinence are different for different types of continence. They may also vary from person to person. The symptoms of different types of urinary incontinence are described below:

Symptoms of Stress Incontinence

Stress incontinence is a condition of involuntary (unintentional) urine leakage forced by an external trigger or exertion like coughing, sneezing and laughing. An individual suffering from stress incontinence may experience the following symptoms:

  • urine escapes when an external force or trigger is experienced
  • abdomen pressure may be felt before the leakage of urine
  • if the condition is mild to moderate, urine leaked is very less
  • in severe cases, the amount of urine leaked is more
  • the leakage is unpredictable
  • patient does not experience any urgency to urinate
  • no nocturia (need to wake up at night to urinate)

Symptoms of Urge Incontinence

Urge incontinence refers to unintentional urine leakage preceded by an urgency to urinate. Patients may experience the following symptoms:

  • uncontrolled urine loss
  • a strong urge or need to go the bathroom every now and then (frequent urination)
  • immediate urge without any warning
  • patient cannot delay the urge else, entire contents of the bladder are lost
  • patient is  unable to hold back the urine
  • cannot be prevented
  • overactive bladder- patient always feels that his bladder is full and he need to go to the bathroom
  • patient experiences nocturia (need to go to the bathroom at night)

Symptoms of Mixed Incontinence

Mixed incontinence refers to the condition of involuntary release of urine which is actually associated with the external exertion and the urgency. It is the combination of stress and urge incontinence. The symptoms include those of the stress incontinence and urge incontinence together. Some of the symptoms are given below:

  • bladder is overactive (the urge to urinate is strong and frequent)
  • urethra may not act when required (the urine cannot be held back even in absence of urge to urinate)
  • people experiencing mixed incontinence experience mild to moderate urine loss with physical activities (stress incontinence).
  • they experience sudden urine loss without any warning (urge incontinence). Urinary frequency is high
  • urgency is always experienced
  • patient also experiences nocturia
  • most of the times, the symptoms of both (urge and stress incontinence) are experienced in a blended manner

Symptoms of Overflow Incontinence

Overflow incontinence refers to continuous dribbling (urine remaining in the urethra after voiding the bladder slowly leaks out after urination) of urine from an overfull bladder without any urge to urinate. It happens when an individual cannot empty his bladder completely at a time. The urine may dribble. The symptoms experienced by the person affected by overflow incontinence are given below:

  • there may be no strong urge to urinate
  • bladder never empties, and small amounts of urine leak continuously
  • bladder empties slowly even though the muscles may not contract because the bladder is always full
  • people may feel like the bladder does not empty completely
  • leaking urine while asleep
  • urine dribbles out even after urination.

Symptoms of Functional Incontinence

Functional incontinence is a condition in which the person does not reach the bathroom on time for urinating. The reason may be poor mobility or the surroundings may not be familiar to the person. The symptoms of functional incontinence are given below:

  • person may have a normal functioning bladder
  • person may have normal bladder control
  • leakage of urine before the person could enter the bathroom
  • leakage may be continuous or in intervals
  • person may be physically or mentally unfit
  • person may be unwilling to go to the bathroom

Urinary incontinence is very common but it can be treated with proper medication and proper guidance. Read about treatment of urinary incontinence.

Monika Singh

Monika Singh is an expert in computer sciences and has pursued her Master’s degree (M.Tech-CS) from Banasthali University, Rajasthan. Her areas of interest include data structure, software engineering, software testing, and computer graphics. Monika Singh has published a paper on “Modified AODV in MANET,” International Journal of Computer Science and Management Studies (IJCSMS), ISSN: 2231-5268, Vol-14, Issue-05 May 2014, PP:12-18.

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