Urinary incontinence is generally defined as loss of bladder control. Although very common, the problem is treatable and usually does not require surgery.
Incontinence can be caused by a wide variety of conditions. Some, such as urinary tract or vaginal infections, side effects of medicine, or constipation, may be temporary. Others can be longer lasting, even permanent. These include such conditions as an overactive bladder muscle, weakness of the muscles holding the bladder in place, weakness of the sphincter muscles surrounding the urethra, birth defects, spinal cord injuries, surgery, or diseases involving the nerves and muscles (multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, polio and stroke), and, in men, an enlarged prostate. In some cases, more than one factor causes incontinence in an individual.
Urologists have identified three main types of urinary incontinence classified by symptoms or by circumstances at the time of leakage. All are treatable. They are stress incontinence, urge incontinence (overactive bladder), and mixed (total) incontinence.