Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario

Urinary Incontinence Defined

  • The involuntary leakage of urine caused by physiological, mechanical and medical factors, including (but not limited to): weak pelvic muscles, diabetes, certain medications, constipation and bladder infection.
  • The most common types of urinary incontinence (stress incontinence, urgency incontinence, mixed incontinence and functional incontinence) are described below. There are additional types of incontinence. Further, clinical indications that fall outside of the common types of incontinence warrant referral to a continence specialist for further assessment and management.
    • Stress incontinence: The involuntary loss of urine due to a sudden increase in intra-abdominal pressure via physical exertion, including coughing, sneezing, laughing, rising from a chair, lifting items or exercise.
    • Urgency incontinence: The involuntary loss of urine that occurs when there is a sudden, compelling urge to urinate and the bladder contracts and empties in an involuntary fashion.
    • Mixed incontinence: The involuntary loss of urine associated with urgency and physical exertion (e.g., coughing or sneezing).
    • Functional incontinence: A type of urinary incontinence that occurs in instances where someone has normal urine control but may have trouble getting to the bathroom in time because they live with conditions that make it difficult for them to move around (such as decreased mobility). It may also be referred to as “disability incontinence”.


Older Adults
A Proactive Approach to Bowel & Bladder Management in Adults
Background Information