Urinary incontinence is the inability to control urination. This can occur temporarily if there is a short-term problem such as a urinary infection and this can usually be resolved promptly. Longer term (more than 3 months) often indicate an underlying problem.
Stress urinary incontinence is the name for incontinence most commonly due to lack of support for the bladder structures. People who suffer from overactive bladder, or urinary incontinence, can't hold their urine -- they wet themselves. (Leaking urine is normal only in infants; it is not a normal result of aging). If you have this problem, you may be too embarrassed or upset to ask for help. Don't be.
Symptoms aren't reliable in making a diagnosis for the absolute cause for urinary leakage, but can give an indication. If you leak most often with physical activity (e.g. coughing, sneezing, lifting or exercise), then stress incontinence is likely to be present. If you leak when you have a strong desire to empty your bladder, but can't reach the toilet fast enough, then urge incontinence is present. Urge incontinence may be due to the bladder muscle contracting when you don't want it to do so ('detrusor instability'). Sometimes, both stress and urge incontinence can exist together, and this is known as mixed incontinence.
Please read the frequently asked questions on incontinence. Available now are simple approaches that help the majority of women and new minimally invasive procedures (eg transobturator tapes) that can keep women dry.
It is helpful if you can complete a questionnaire on the severity of urinary incontinence as this helps doctors to make decisions on the need for investigations or treatment. The following Adobe PDFs can be downloaded and printed:
Instructions on pelvic floor exercises can be found on this website and downloaded also: pelvic floor exercises