Female urinary incontinence can be grouped in several distinct categories:
Stress Urinary Incontinence: Urine leakage occurs with increases in abdominal pressure (coughing, laughing, sneezing, lifting a heavy object).
Urge Urinary Incontinence : Often referred to as “overactive bladder.” Inability to hold urine long enough to reach restroom. Women often describe a sudden urge to urinate followed immediately by leaking. Some leak on the way to the bathroom or while they are taking off their pants.
Mixed Incontinence: When two or more causes contribute to urinary incontinence. Often refers to the presence of both stress and urge incontinence. For example, someone has the combination of stress incontinence (leaking with coughing, sneezing, exercise, etc.) and urge incontinence (leaking along with a need to get to the bathroom), this is known as mixed urinary incontinence. Often, a woman may first experience one kind of leaking, and finds that the other begins to occur later.
Other causes (less frequent)
Overflow Incontinence: Leakage or “spill-over” of urine when the quantity of urine exceeds the bladder’s capacity to hold it. This generally happens when there is some blockage or obstruction to the bladder’s emptying; the bladder is unable to empty well, and small amounts of leakage happen frequently. This kind of leakage is less common among women, unless they have had bladder surgery, vaginal prolapse, or a neurologic problem.
Functional Incontinence: Leakage (usually resulting from one or more causes) due to factors impairing your ability to reach the restroom in time because of physical conditions (e.g., arthritis or using a walker). This may or may not represent a problem of the pelvic floor, but should certainly be addressed with a health-care provider.
Fistula: This is an abnormal connection between the vagina and the urinary tract. This usually happens after some types of surgery, trauma or radiation to the area and are relatively uncommon.
Diverticulum: When urine collects in a pouch within the urethra and tends to dribble out.
Dr. Burns has provided an informative patient educational video on incontinence and female pelvic support: