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Incontinence: Types and General Information

Published: 2009-02-27 - Updated: 2018-08-04
Author: Hillary B.

Synopsis: Incontinence comes in many different forms and understanding the differences between them is a critical step in moving towards recovery.

Main Digest

Urge incontinence, and incontinence in general, has a certain stigma attached to it which has meant that it is not something regularly discussed...


So, What is Incontinence?

Incontinence is defined by Merriam-Webster as "The inability of the body to control the evacuative functions of urination or defecation : partial or complete loss of bladder or bowel control."

Incontinence comes in many different forms and understanding the differences between them is a critical step in moving towards recovery.

This article touches briefly on the various types of incontinence.

Types Of Incontinence

Stress Incontinence

Stress incontinence is caused by the pelvic muscles or sphincter being damaged which can cause the bladder to leak when it comes under physical stress. This can occur during many different types of movement including laughing, coughing or sneezing. Lifting heavy objects can also apply pressure on the bladder and cause stress incontinence.

Stress incontinence is quite common in women who have given birth multiple times.

Urge Incontinence

Urge incontinence refers to an urgent and uncontrollable urge to pass urine coupled with an inability to prevent the bladder from releasing urine. Typically this means a sufferer will be hit by a need to urinate and try to get to a bathroom in time, but be unable to contain themselves. Urge incontinence is frequently caused by nerve damage is suffered in the pathways between the bladder and the brain. There are multiple reasons this can happen including having suffered a stroke, alzheimers disease, parkinsons disease, dementia or multiple sclerosis. Urge incontinence is one of the types of incontinence that can also be had at the same time as stress incontinence.

Urge Incontinence is usually marked with a frequent need to urinate and bed wetting. It can also be triggered by drinking even a small amount of water or the sound of running water.

Overflow Incontinence

Overflow Incontinence is typically caused by incorrect signal relay to the brain of how full the bladder is. The bladder becomes overly full and simply overflows.

Pelvic Trauma and Diabetes are common causes, as are excessive use of plastic surgery, Polio, Multiple Sclerosis or spinal cord injuries. The symptoms are numerous and varied but include the loss of small amounts of urine throughout the day, the desire to empty your bladder when unable to do so, feeling the bladder is still full after urinating and passing a weak dribbling stream of urine.

Incontinence from Surgery

Following some operations, such as hysterectomies, cesarean sections and prostatectomies a patient may find they suffer from a transient condition referred to as Incontinence from surgery. This can also follow lower intestine surgery or rectal surgery, usually performed in response to an invasive cancerous growth. The surgery effects the pelvic muscles and can lead to leakage or any of the other types of incontinence.

Functional Incontinence

This is a form of incontinence caused by not being able to properly complete the normal process of relieving oneself. It is usually associated with the elderly and can involve such things as inability to work zippers or buttons due to severe arthritis. Of all the types of incontinence this is the only one which is caused by factors exclusively outside the urinary tract.

Anal or Double Incontinence

Also known as fecal incontinence, this type of incontinence occurs due to a failure of the nervous system and is most common in the very old, frail or those in the very late stages of a nervous system disorder. In this situation the ability to control bowel motions is lost along with control over passing water.

The Basics of Urge Incontinence

Urge incontinence, and incontinence in general, has a certain stigma attached to it which has meant that it is not something regularly discussed in 'polite' society. However it's important that if you suffer from any form of incontinence you are far from alone.

In the United Kingdom there are believed to be as many as 6 million people suffering from incontinence in one form or another and many of these people are too embarrassed by their problem to contact a professional. Roughly two million of those sufferers suffer from urge incontinence, and in this article we will look at what urge incontinence is, what causes it and what you can do about it.

What is Urge Incontinence?

We define urge incontinence as a sudden, unstoppable urge to urinate immediately which leads to a loss of urine. The urine loss is uncontrollable in the sufferer and can range from a small trickle to enough lost liquid to escape inner clothing and run down a leg causin acute embarrassment regardless of the social setting.

What Causes Urge Incontinence?

The physical cause is an inappropriate contraction of the bladder muscles, or more specifically a sudden and uncontrolled contraction of the detrusor muscle which is located in the bladder and primarily responsible for the normal urination process. There are a number of possible reasons for this inappropriate contraction including infection, inflammation or the bladder, obstruction in the bladder outlet, cancer of the bladder or bladder stones. There are also proven neurological links that can lead to the incontinent condition. A neurological injury such as a spinal cord injury or a stroke could be responsible, as could multiple sclerosis.

An onset of the inappropriate urge to urinate will occur with no warning and there are not necessarily any 'trigger' conditions such as the presence(or absence) of stress. This uncontrollable urge is known as urinary urgency and is the primary symptom, along with the actual loss of urine. It is also quite common to suffer abdominal pains that are related to the condition.

What Can Be Done About Urge Incontinence?

The treatment of Urge Incontinence will vary depending on what the primary cause is believed to be. In the case of an infection in the urine and bladder the primary cause of treatment is antibiotics. Other medications may be needed depending on how severe the situation is and what impact it is having on the sufferers lifestyle or comfort levels, as well as the frequency of new bouts.

There are also some very simple dietary changes that can be made which will have a positive effect. These start with monitoring and controlling fluid intake so that the bladder is never loaded with too much liquid at one time. This requires having smaller drinks more regularly rather than one or two heavy drinking times throughout the day. There are also foods known to irritate the bladder - such as caffeine, spicy foods, carbonated drinks and acidic fruits and juices.

You can use Detrol or Ditropan to relax the bladder and Anti-cholinergic agents agents will inhibit the involuntary bladder contractions.

Surgery is also an option in extreme cases with the bladder being expanded to accumulate more urine. There are risks and consequences involved with surgery that should be discussed with your doctor - but the success rate is very high.

With 25% of women over the age of 18 having had at least one incontinent episode it's a much bigger problem than many people think. This is because it is taboo - not discussed in public and often ignored. It can be so embarrassing we don't even want to talk to our doctors about it. That's why I'm writing this article, so you can get educated about what is going on from the privacy and seclusion of your own house. Hopefully by the time you are finished reading it you will not feel so alone or helpless about incontinence.

What is Stress Incontinence?

Stress incontinence differs from other forms of incontinence in that it is triggered by stress. This refers not to emotional stress but actual physical stress on the bladder. As such it is usually triggered by exercise including sharp movements such as sneezing, coughing or laughing. It is triggered by the urethral sphincter being pressed on by the abdomen. Because the Urethral Sphincter cannot deal with the additional pressure it will leak Urine in varying quantities.

What is Causing It?

There are a number of causes of Stress Incontinence, most notably the weakening of the pelvic muscles. In a normal situation these muscles should be supporting both the urethra and the bladder, but they become weakened and so prone to leakage when additional stress is placed on them. Alternatively, a malfunction in the Urethral Sphincter may result from a neurological injury or trauma to the area surrounding the urethra.

Who is At Risk?

There are a number of factors that will increase the risk to you including obesity, smoking and having given birth. Women are also significantly more likely to suffer from Stress Incontinence. Smoking increases your chances because it is more likely to lead to chronic coughing, and other conditions which lead to regular bouts of coughing, such as Asthma and bronchitis will also increase your susceptibility.

What Can Be Done About It?

Surgery is the most extreme option to treat Stress Incontinence and while candidates are carefully qualified the success rate can be as high as ninety five percent. Medication can also be prescribed by your doctor in certain situations and can be very effective.

One of the simplest and least invasive things you can do is regular pelvic muscle exercises to keep your pelvic floor muscles in strong condition. As with any exercise routine the key is regularity and persistence. Some people will see an improvement within a few weeks to a few months, but it may take up to five months to start really seeing results.

The exercises you need to perform are very simple and involve clenching and un-clenching your abdominal muscles in a controlled fashion. The great thing about this is that you can perform these practically anywhere, even while you are sitting at your computer. Anyone looking at you would have to watch very closely to know you were doing anything at all as the muscles you need to focus on are all internal.

How You Can Discretely Purchase Incontinence Products?

Statistically half of nursing home residents are incontinent of urine and many lose control of bowel motions too. But just because it is a common problem doesn't make it socially easy - so it's important to learn how to buy incontinence products as discretely as possible.

Either urinary or bowel incontinence can be effectively managed if you manage to get the correct incontinence products.

What Incontinence Products Are Available?

There is a common myth that bladder weakness effects only the very young and the very old. This is completely untrue, though being in these age brackets greatly increases the chances of suffering from incontinence. Because it is such an embarrassing issue to discuss it is often not bought to the attention of a doctor during the early stages, and sometimes not at all. Perhaps people would be more willing to discuss their incontinence with a medial professional if they knew that one our of every four women over the age of 18 has suffered from involuntary urinary leakage at some time.

With some breakthrough modern technological advances there is now a whole new range of incontinence products that cater to everyone regardless of their level of bladder weakness. By finding and using the correct types of incontinence product your incontinence does not need to be something that has a serious effect on your life. Your incontinence will be rated as mild, moderate or heavy and the products you use will be based on what job they need to perform.

So What's The Problem?

If there is such a complete range of solutions out there to manage incontinence - what is the problem? Why isn't everyone using them

The problem is that it is embarrassing to discuss incontinence products because it is embarrassing to discuss incontinence. If someone is too shy to discuss this medical issue with their doctor then they are almost certainly not going to want to be seen picking up products for incontinence in the supermarket. And as for asking an attendant for advice - that's simply never going to happen!

The Solution to Buying Incontinence Products

Buying your incontinent supplies online offers a confidential solution to your incontinence needs packaged with the discretion of experienced professionals. You can surf through a variety of different products and if you get stuck you can ask for advise safe in the knowledge that you will never meet the person you are talking to, and if you did neither of you would know.

Mail order incontinence supplies have been something that people have used for years to avoid the embarrassment of going to a local store for their incontinence products. Buying your incontinence products online is the natural progression to buying through a phone or mail order service.

Aside from the anonymity and discretion factors, there is also the increased access to information that the internet brings. The same revolution has been seen in every industry from buying cars online to buying books. Not only do companies post their information online for customers to see and compare, but customers are able to anonymously record their thoughts on products and companies.

When you buy online, anything from houses to incontinence products, you can be more informed of the items you are buying and how other users have found them than any previous generation in history.

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Cite This Page (APA): Hillary B.. (2009, February 27). Incontinence: Types and General Information. Disabled World. Retrieved September 22, 2021 from