WARNING: The Embarrassing Bodies website contains images of an explicit medical nature and nudity in a medical context.

NHS Choices Condition

Content supplied by NHS Choices

Urinary incontinence is the unintentional passing of urine. It is a very common problem that is thought to affect about three million people in the UK.

Anyone can experience urinary incontinence, although it is more common in older people. The condition affects far more women than men, and it is thought to occur in one in five women who are over 40 years of age.

How the bladder works

The bladder is a stretchy muscular bag that collects and stores urine. It is located in the pelvis at the lowest point in the abdomen, immediately behind the pubic bone.

The bladder is constantly receiving urine from the kidneys, which filter it down to the bladder through tubes called ureters. The urine is held in the bladder by the pelvic floor muscles, which keep the urinary opening (urethra) closed.

Once the bladder is full, a signal is sent to the brain that triggers the need to pass urine. At a suitable time, the brain tells the pelvic floor muscles to relax and the bladder contracts to push the urine out.

However, this process can be interrupted in several different ways, resulting in urinary incontinence. 

Types of urinary incontinence

There are various types of urinary incontinence, but the two main types are stress incontinence and urge incontinence.

  • Stress incontinence occurs when the pelvic floor muscles are too weak to prevent urination.
  • Urge incontinence is thought to occur as a result of incorrect signals being sent between the brain and the bladder.

These two types of urinary incontinence are thought to be responsible for up to 90% of all cases of the condition. It is also possible to have a mixture of both stress and urge urinary incontinence. 

What can be done 

Urinary incontinence can be an uncomfortable and upsetting problem. Many people may think that it is an inevitable part of ageing, but there are several forms of treatment, including exercises, medicines and electrical therapy, that can help ease the symptoms.

view information about Incontinence urinary on www.nhs.co.uk »

Important Notice

The information provided on this website (including any NHS Choices medical information) is for use as information or for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical care by a qualified doctor or other qualified healthcare professional. We do not warrant that any information included within this site will meet your health or medical requirements. This Embarrassing Bodies site does not provide any medical or diagnostic services so you should always check with a health professional if you have any concerns about your health.


If you want to embed our videos in your site, read our embedding T&Cs here