Incontinence Overview

Involuntary loss of urine (urinary incontinence) is a common condition effecting both males and females.  Incontinence may lead to poor self-esteem, avoidance of activities and social situations, sleep disturbance, falls, skin irritation or breakdown and overall decreased sense of well being.  There are several types of urinary incontinence, the main ones being:

  1. Stress incontinence - leakage (usually small squirts) with physical activity, cough, laugh and sneeze.  Also know as activity-related or mechanical incontinence.
  2. Urge incontinence - sudden leakage (sometimes large volumes, or stream of urine) preceded by a strong urge to urinate and inability to supress urge or get to a bathroom in time.  Triggers may include "key in the door", running water, sudden changes in position, dietary bladder irritants (caffeine, alcohol, soda).  Also known as overactive bladder incontinence.
  3. Overflow incontinence - chronic inability to emtpy the bladder (due to obstruction or failure of the bladder muscle to contract) leading to buildup of residual urine which eventually overflows.
  4. Mixed incontinence - any combination of the above.


In addition to a clinical interview and questionairres, several tests may be indicated to diagnose and treat urinary incontinence.  These may include 24 hour pad collection, voiding diary, pelvic examination with special maneuvres to demonstrate leakage, urine and blood tests, ultrasound of the urinary tract, cystoscopy and urodynamics (bladder function test).


Treatment options may include removing obvious dietary triggers and ensuring optimal bladder habits (behavioral therapy or bladder retraining), pelvic muscle exercises, medications and surgery.  Treatment depends on type and severity of leakage and the wishes and goals of the patient.  Surgical treatment is generally reserved for stress incontinence and options differ for males and females.


If you are female and coming for assessment of urinary incontinence, please fill out our urinary incontinence questionnaire (the UDI-6). This will help us assess your problem.


On the Web

General Urology Websites

Canadian Urological Association  Extenstive library of downloadable pamphlets on a wide range of urological conditions

Cleveland Clinic

Mayo Clinic

Medline Plus Produced by the US National Institutes of Health with information on virtually every health topic and extensive list of links The patient information site of the American Urological Association.