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What is gross total urinary incontinence?

Diana Meeks
Diana Meeks on behalf of Sigma Nursing
Family Practitioner

This form of incontinence occurs when a person's bladder has no ability to hold urine. This type of incontinence is rare, however. It is usually the result of a birth defect or severe injury to the spine or excretory system.

There are several types of urinary incontinence. The most common are:

  • Stress incontinence: Urine leaks when you laugh, cough, sneeze, exercise, or exert yourself in any way that puts pressure on your bladder. This is the most common type of incontinence and can almost always be successfully treated.
  • Urge incontinence: You experience sudden and powerful urges to urinate that often result in an accident. An overactive bladder—one that contracts when you don't want it to—is usually the cause and may be due to anything from an infection to damaged nerves. In men, this type of urgency may be a sign of an enlarged prostate. It can also be an early sign of bladder cancer.
  • Mixed incontinence: You experience both stress and urge incontinence.
  • Overflow incontinence: You frequently leak small amounts of urine but are unable to completely empty your bladder when you try. This is usually caused by a blockage of some sort, such as an enlarged prostate in men, but may also be caused by weak bladder muscles.
  • Functional incontinence: You have relatively normal urine control but can't get to the bathroom in time because of a physical limitation or the inability to recognize the need to go. It usually affects older people who have a hard time getting around, people with dementia, and people with disabilities.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.