Updated 22 August 2018

Symptoms of incontinence

The many signs of urinary incontinence (UI) depends on the type of incontinence you have.

The symptoms or signs of urinary incontinence (UI) depends on the type of incontinence you have (e.g. stress, urge, overflow, mixed or total incontinence). 

The following signs warrant a visit to the doctor:

  • Occasionally or regularly leaking urine when you sneeze, cough, laugh, lift a heavy object or exercise.
  • Regularly experiencing a strong, sudden need to urinate, and then not making it to the toilet in time.
  • Urinating more often than usual (also during the night).
  • Finding that urine drips into your underwear throughout the day.
  • A feeling of incomplete emptying of the bladder after urination.
  • A burning sensation when urinating (this is usually an indication of infection). 
  • Leaking of urine associated with a vaginal bulge or a feeling of heaviness in the vagina (prolapse).

Faecal incontinence (FI), on the other hand, is characterised by the involuntary leakage of liquid or solid stool. You might notice that your underwear is soiled or that it becomes increasingly difficult to make it to the toilet in time. Some people are aware of the fact that they’re leaking stool; others aren’t. 

You may also involuntarily expel gas. If you expel both stool and gas when you’re not planning to, you’re said to have anal incontinence. 

If you experience any of the above symptoms of FI, it’s worth paying a visit to your doctor.

Read more:
Causes of incontinence

Reviewed by Dr Dakalo Muavha, Specialist in Obstetrics & Gynaecology, MBChB DipObs FCOG Mmed, University of Cape Town and Groote Schuur Hospital. May 2018.


Ask the Expert

Incontinence Expert

Dr Prenevin Govender completed his MBChB at the University of Cape Town in 2001. He obtained his Fellowship of the College of Urologists in 2009 and graduated with distinction for a Masters in Medicine from the University of Cape Town in 2010. His special interests include laparoscopic, pelvic organ prolapse and urinary incontinence surgery. He consults full-time at Life Kingsbury Hospital in Claremont.

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