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How to Tell the Difference Between Incontinence and UTI

How to Tell the Difference Between Incontinence and UTI

August 7, 2014

Urinary incontinence, or the unintentional leakage of urine, is a symptom that tens of millions of Americans experience – and it’s usually a sign of a greater condition. For instance, some people experience incontinence based on their diet. Many women experience incontinence after giving birth, and many men often experience it for several months following prostate surgery.

Both men and women may also experience incontinence if they have a UTI, or urinary tract infection. It is important to distinguish the difference between incontinence and UTI. Here’s a closer look:

Incontinence vs. UTI


Although both incontinence and a UTI are often accompanied by the sudden urge to urinate, there are several characteristics that can help you understand just exactly what you’re dealing with. Part of this is because UTIs occur when bacteria travel through the urethra and into the bladder. While women have shorter urethras, and are thereby four times more likely to get a UTI than men, it’s also possible for men to get them too.

However, because the root cause of UTIs is bacteria, there are several things to keep an eye on that can help you determine exactly what condition you could be facing. Here’s a look at some UTI signs and symptoms:

  • Burning during urination
  • A strong odor to the urine
  • Men with a UTI may experience sharp rectal pain
  • Women with a UTI may experience sharp pelvic pain


If you experience any of the aforementioned symptoms, it’s likely that a UTI is at the root of your incontinence, and you should see a doctor immediately. Failing to seek medical treatment promptly can potentially cause the UTI to spread further into the internal organs, possibly damaging the kidneys, bladder, and more. What’s more is that a UTI is easy to treat, typically requiring you to take prescribed antibiotics to kill off the bacteria.

Conversely, if you don’t experience any of the symptoms listed above, then you likely don’t have a UTI, and are just experiencing incontinence. If that’s the case, there are a number of ways you can treat and manage this unintentional urination, from changing lifestyle habits and strengthening the muscles in the pelvic area, to wearing incontinence briefs and panties to minimize such symptoms while you work on treating the condition.

So, if you’re experiencing sudden and unintentional urination, you should first seek to find the root of the problem. In most cases, it’s important to distinguish the difference between incontinence and UTI. While in most cases it shouldn’t be difficult to do so, in other cases, it may be worthwhile to seek the advice and treatment of a medical professional. For more information about incontinence symptoms and treatment, visit the incontinence treatment section of our blog.

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