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Urinary incontinence is a condition that can affect people of all ages, shapes and sizes. Although a lot of women are affected because of damage to the pelvic floor sustained during pregnancy and childbirth, around 14 million people in the UK alone experience problems with urine incontinence at some time in their lives.

Urinary incontinence is the involuntary loss of urine. For some, the problem can be as minor as the rare dribble, for others it is as problematic as wetting your clothes.

Uncomfortable, a nuisance and often embarrassing, urinary incontinence can often affect your lifestyle. You may find yourself avoiding physical activity, travel or social relationships, or even be worried about leaving the house. Unsurprisingly, it is also a condition many people have difficulty talking about.

What are the types of urine incontinence?

Urinary incontinence can be classified in four categories:

  • Stress incontinence: leaking urine when you exercise, cough, sneeze or laugh.
  • Urge incontinence: now often called overactive bladder. You feel a sudden urge to urinate that is overwhelming and urine leaks before you can reach a toilet. This also encompasses the 'key in the door' syndrome. This typically involves an uncontrollable urge to urinate when unlocking the door after returning from a trip out of the house.
  • Mixed incontinence: a combination of urge and stress incontinence.
  • Overflow incontinence: the bladder becomes very full and then empties but you don’t get any sensation to warn you that this is going to happen.

Around four out of five people with urine incontinence are women and many of them suffer in silence, concluding that this is just something they need to learn to live with. However, there are many effective treatments available, ranging from behavioural and lifestyle changes, pelvic floor exercises, treatment with pessaries, or surgery. No matter how severe your incontinence, there is a treatment that can sort it out.

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