Bladder problems typically take the form of urinary incontinence (leaking urine) and urinary retention (inability to empty the bladder) and can arise from neurogenic disorders such as spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis and spina bifida. Incontinence and retention can also be age related, or result from an underlying physical disease, caused by a dysfunction in the bladder. Learn how the bladder works.
There are different types of urinary incontinence, each with different symptoms and causes. The most common types of urinary incontinence are stress urinary incontinence (SUI), urge urinary incontinence and mixed urinary incontinence.
- Stress urinary incontinence (SUI) occurs when the muscles in the pelvic floor, under sudden, increased pressure (stress), are too weak to hold the urethral sphincters closed. The result is an involuntary leakage of urine during everyday activities such as sneezing, coughing, laughing or exercising.
- Urge urinary incontinence (unstable or overactive bladder) is caused by involuntary, uncontrolled contractions of the muscle in the bladder. This results in a sudden urge to go to the toilet, and involuntary urine leakage before reaching the toilet.
- Mixed urinary incontinence is a combination of stress urinary incontinence and urge urinary incontinence.
- Overflow incontinence (a frequent or constant dribble of urine) results from an inability to empty the bladder and occurs in people with a damaged bladder, blocked urethra or neurological damage. With overflow incontinence you may feel as if you never completely empty your bladder. When you try to urinate, you may produce only a weak stream of urine.
Urinary retention can be caused by an obstruction in the urinary tract, a bladder muscle weakness or by a neurogenic condition e.g. multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury or spina bifida all of which interfere with signals between the brain and the bladder, resulting in a dysfunction in the urinary system.
Urinary tract infections
When your bladder is not emptying properly there is a risk that the residual urine in the bladder will become infected. This could cause further complications (for example urinary tract infections) if it is not removed regularly. It is important to seek help if you experience symptoms of urinary retention.
Symptoms of urinary problems are different depending on whether you suffer from urinary incontinence or urinary retention. The causes of urinary problems are numerous and can be related to a number of medical conditions including both neurogenic and non-neurogenic disorders. Read more about the causes and symptoms of bladder problems and how to take care of your bladder.