Incontinence Glossary: What Does Incontinence Mean?

When it comes to incontinence, there are various words and phrases that you may come across.

Many of us can feel embarrassed speaking to others about this kind of topic, and therefore may shy away from asking questions about incontinence.

That’s why we have put together this incontinence glossary to give you the definitions and information you need surrounding Incontinence.

The Definition of Incontinence

So what does incontinence mean? Mayo Clinic defines urinary incontinence as “the unintentional passing of urine”.

The severity of urinary incontinence ranges from occasionally leaking urine when you cough or sneeze to having an urge to urinate that's so sudden and strong you don't get to the restroom in time.

The different types of urinary incontinence include:

  • Stress incontinence
  • Urge incontinence
  • Mixed incontinence
  • Overflow incontinence
  • Total incontinence

    In this glossary, we’ve collated some other key terms related to incontinence - some terms you may have heard before, we break it down for you giving you background, the meaning and everything you need to know.

    You can bookmark this page so you can refer back to it in the future.

    After Dribble

    Ever find yourself leaking little droplets of urine, even after you’re sure you’ve finished urinating? There are two types of after dribble; post-micturition dribble and terminal dribble. After dribble happens because the bladder doesn’t empty completely when you urinate.

    Acute urinary retention

    Acute urinary retention (AUR) is the sudden inability to pass urine. It is usually painful. With acute urinary retention, a health care professional will immediately drain the urine from your bladder using a catheter


    Bedwetting, or nocturnal enuresis involves the involuntary loss of urine whilst sleeping. This is only an issue for those who are of an age where bedwetting is no longer expected, i.e. adults.

    Bladder Weakness

    Bladder weakness refers to difficulty in controlling the bladder, which can result in an involuntary loss of urine. The correct medical term for bladder weakness is urinary incontinence.

    Coital Incontinence

    Coital incontinence refers to the accidental leakage of urine during sex. This can happen to women either during penetration or during an orgasm. Coital incontinence is often an issue for women who have already been diagnosed with either stress incontinence or an overactive bladder.

    Detrusor Muscle

    The detrusor muscle is located in the walls of the bladder and is a set of smooth muscle fibres. The detrusor contracts during urination, forcing the urine out of the bladder and moving it into the urethra. Once urination has taken place, the detrusor muscle relaxes to hold more urine.


    Enuresis is the involuntary loss of urine. This word is typically referenced in the context of nocturnal enuresis, which is when incontinence occurs during sleep at night-time.

    Fecal Incontinence

    Having fecal incontinence, also known as bowel incontinence, means you struggle with controlling your bowels, which can lead to an involuntary loss of faeces.

    Functional Incontinence

    Functional incontinence is an inability to reach the toilet in time because of the difficulties caused on the journey to the bathroom. This could be due to age or disability where you are unable to reach a toilet or remove clothes in time. This could also be as a result of mental health issues, including confusion as to where the toilet is and therefore not making it in time.


    The definition of incontinence is: the involuntary loss of bladder and/or bowel control. There are many types of incontinence including stress incontinence, urge incontinence, mixed incontinence, overflow incontinence and fecal incontinence.

    Incontinence Shorts

    Incontinence shorts, like INNOVO, can help women who live with stress incontinence. They're non-invasive therefore much safer and can help you regain control by treating the root cause of bladder weakness. Rather than soaking up any leaks, INNOVO can help to stop you from leaking altogether.

    Kegel Exercises

    Kegel exercises strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, which support the uterus, bladder, small intestine and rectum. Strengthening the pelvic floor is the best thing you can do to reduce the risk of any type of incontinence. 50% of women cannot do a kegel properly and that is where INNOVO helps - they do the Kegels for you.

    Mixed Incontinence

    Mixed incontinence refers to having more than one type of incontinence. Most commonly, it’s a combination of stress incontinence and urge incontinence which tends to occur simultaneously in women. If you happen to have both types, there’s usually one that causes more of a problem than the other.


    Nocturia refers to the need to get up frequently during the night to urinate. This could be caused by high fluid intake, sleep disorders and/or bladder obstruction.

    Overactive Bladder (OAB)

    Overactive bladder is the name given to a collection of symptoms, which can include a sudden and uncontrolled urge to urinate and passing urine many times throughout the day and night. Essentially, having an overactive bladder can make you feel like you always have to go to the restroom urgently and too much.

    Overflow Incontinence

    Overflow incontinence refers to the inability to completely empty your bladder; this results in overflow which can then leak out when you’re not expecting it.

    You may not even feel like your bladder is full when this happens. Urine left in the bladder when the bladder has not been fully emptied is also a breeding ground for bacteria - which can lead to repeated urinary tract infections (UTIs).

    Pelvic Floor Muscles

    The pelvic floor muscles run from the frontal pubic bone to the base of the spine. Shaped like a basin, the pelvic floor holds the pelvic organs (uterus, vagina, bowel and bladder) in place and supports the bladder to provide control when you urinate. Weak pelvic floor muscles can lead to urinary and/or faecal incontinence.

    Residual Urine

    Residual urine is urine that remains in the bladder after urinating.

    Stress Incontinence

    Stress Urinary Incontinence (SUI) is a type of Urinary Incontinence, which is a loss of voluntary control of urination. Stress Incontinence is the term used when leaks involuntarily occur as a result of coughing, sneezing, laughing, jumping, heavy lifting, or other movement that puts pressure on the bladder. It is also the most common form of urinary incontinence in US women, affecting 1 in 3 women.

    Urge Incontinence

    Also known as an overactive bladder with urine leakage - Urge Incontinence, also known as frequent urination or overactive bladder, refers to a sudden and uncontrollable urge to urinate, often with little warning. Urge Incontinence is a type of urinary incontinence, which is a loss of voluntary control over urination.

    Urinary Incontinence

    What does urinary incontinence mean? Urinary incontinence, also commonly referred to as bladder weakness or urinary leakage, is a loss of voluntary control over urination.

    Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)

    Urinary tract infections affect your urinary tract, this includes your bladder (cystitis), urethra (urethritis) or kidneys (kidney infection). UTIs can be treated with antibiotics, but they're not always necessary.

    Suffering from Stress Urinary Incontinence?

    That concludes our incontinence definition guide. Remember to bookmark this page so that you can always find out information about incontinence and incontinence related keywords in a flash.

    If you’d like to know more about Stress Urinary Incontinence and how INNOVO can help stop your bladder leaks, discover how INNOVO works today.