The causes of urinary incontinence are many and treatments are aimed at each of these causes. Incontinence is classified into four basic categories: Transient Incontinence, Urge Incontinence, Stress Incontinence, and Overflow Incontinence.
Transient incontinence is incontinence due to factors outside the urinary tract such as drugs or social and mobility issues that affect the ability to move oneself into the bathroom. It may be related to one's level of consciousness and perception of one's surroundings.
Urge incontinence is described by patients as the urge to urinate but being unable to hold the urine in time to get to a bathroom. It is characterized as an uncontrolled spasm of the bladder muscle resulting in its contraction and emptying of urine. Sometimes these uncontrolled spasms may occur without a patient's awareness. It can be caused by a variety of disease such as diabetes, strokes, Parkinson's disease, and even simple urinary tract infections.
Stress incontinence happens when a physical event like a cough or sneeze causes one to leak. These stress events cause an increase in pressure from outside the bladder. Normally, the sphincter and support structures at the base of the bladder help keep urine from going out. However, if any of these structures are damaged or weakened from events such as surgery, childbirth, or diseases, stress incontinence may occur.
Finally, overflow incontinence occurs when the bladder is filled to its capacity, cannot fill anymore, and basically spills out or "overflows." This occurs in situations when the bladder muscle for varied reasons does not contract or when there is a blockage causing the bladder to fill without adequate emptying. Such blockages typically occur in men with large obstructing prostate glands. Bladder muscle "weakness" can often occur in patients whose nerves to the bladder are injured after surgery, from diabetes or other disease of the nervous system.