Information about incontinence

Incontinence is a term that describes any accidental or involuntary loss of urine from the bladder (urinary incontinence) or bowel motion, faeces or wind from the bowel (faecal or bowel incontinence). Incontinence is a widespread condition that ranges in severity from just a small leak' to complete loss of bladder or bowel control. In fact, over 4.8 million Australians have bladder or bowel control problems for a variety of reasons. Incontinence can be treated and managed. In many cases it can also be cured.

There are different types of urinary incontinence and the following are the most common:

  • Stress incontinence
  • Urge incontinence
  • Overflow incontinence
  • Functional incontinence


Stress Incontinence

This is the most common type of urinary incontinence. This often occurs during activities that increase abdominal pressure such as sneezing coughing, laughing, or lifting heavy objects. This results in an increased pressure on the bladder forcing the urine to pass through the urethra and 'leak'.

This is often caused by pregnancy, childbirth and menopause. It is also common in men after prostrate surgery.


Urge Incontinence

This type of urinary incontinence is the sudden need or urgent desire to urinate. It can also be defined as the inability to hold the urine until a toilet is reached which is usually a result of the bladder muscle contracting involuntarily. Urge incontinence is also sometimes referred to as an overactive bladder or detrusor instability.

This type of incontinence seems to get worse with age and symptoms may get worse with drinking of tea, caffeince and alcohol.


Overflow Incontinence

This type of incontinence is generally when the bladder is unable to completely empty resulting in a swollen bladder. This often causes the urine to leak. Also, due to the retention of urine in the bladder men and women are more prone to getting urine infections.

Some of hte causes of overflow incontinence include obstruction include obstruction or blockage to the bladder opening, nerve damage to those supplying to the bladder, diabetes, enlarged prostrate, parkinson's disease and stroke.


Functional Incontinence

Functional incontinence is generally described as the inability to reach a toilet in time and often due to the inability to recognise the need to go ot the toilet. This type of incontinence is more often seen in the elderly or disabled.

Some of the common causes of this type of incontinence are dementia, poor mobility, poor dexterity (which might make removing of clothing difficult), and environmental factors such as difficult access to a toilet.


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