The 7 Types of Incontinence Causes and Symptoms

The 7 Types of Incontinence Causes and Symptoms
By Inco
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The 7 Types of Incontinence Causes and Symptoms

Incontinence can be a tricky subject to address, especially as it can affect people in various ways. For those living with incontinence, it may also be a potentially embarrassing subject to discuss.

In the media, we are also presented with a very narrow view of the full spectrum of incontinence; the incontinence products which we see on television and in print advertisements only cover a small part of that spectrum.

What is incontinence?

Incontinence covers a range of conditions that affect the ability to control both urinary and faecal movements – and it affects over 8 million people in the UK.

Most types of incontinence affect people of all ages, while others impact you depending on your age and your gender. 

It’s important to understand that incontinence isn’t simply a problem in and of itself, and there are many underlying causes for incontinence.

The types of incontinence:

#1 - Stress incontinence

Symptoms: Stress incontinence can include urine or faecal loss while undertaking activities or other bodily functions. That could include coughing, sneezing, or laughing, and movements such as jumping or lifting. 

Causes: In women, stress incontinence can result from pregnancy and after childbirth, and may also be a result or indication of menopause.

For men and women, stress incontinence can also be brought on post-surgery (such as for fissures affecting the anal muscle), and from pelvic radiation during investigative treatments.

#2 – Urge incontinence

Symptoms: Urge incontinence is the frequent, sudden need to urinate or pass a bowel movement. It can often mean that a high volume of urine or faecal matter is passed in one instance of using the toilet. Furthermore, it may also leave people in difficulty if they cannot reach a toilet in time. 

Causes: There are many physical conditions associated with urge incontinence, such as pregnancy and the menopause in women, and an enlarged prostate in men.

Neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis can also bring on urge incontinence in the older population.

Conditions such as IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) are commonly associated with faecal urge incontinence in both men and women.

#3 – Mixed incontinence

Many people sadly suffer from a combination of stress and urge incontinence.

Symptoms: The symptoms of mixed incontinence include those listed above, and many people often find that one type will affect them slightly more than the other, where they experience both kinds.

Causes: As well and the conditions discussed above, mixed incontinence may also be caused by an overactive bladder or diarrhoea.

#4 - Overflow incontinence

Overflow incontinence is very similar to stress incontinence. 

Symptoms: The crucial difference with overflow incontinence is that the overflow is caused by the inability to empty the bladder or bowel between toilet visits completely. This means that excretion may occur even where there is not an urge to use the toilet. 

Causes: This type of incontinence is caused by many of the physical and mental impairments mentioned above, but can also be a result of spinal damage, muscle obstruction, or even an effect of medication for other health conditions. 

#5 - Functional incontinence

Functional incontinence is a form of urinary incontinence, which is not associated with any pathology or other problem with the urinary system.

Symptoms: This form of incontinence occurs where the patient is usually wholly unaware of the urination. The amount of urination can also vary from a small amount to completely emptying the bladder.

Causes: Functional incontinence is associated with physical and cognitive impairments. These include Alzheimer’s disease, head injury, and even depression and anxiety, where individuals are unwilling to use the toilet.

#6 - Reflex incontinence

Reflex incontinence is very similar to urge incontinence and is also known as an overactive bladder. 

Symptoms: This form of incontinence occurs even when the bladder is not full, as a result of an involuntary muscle spasm.

Causes: Reflex incontinence is most common in individuals with neurological impairments such as spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis, and nerve damage as a result of trauma or injury. 

#7 – Nocturnal Enuresis (bedwetting)

Most common in the very young and very elderly, Nocturnal Enuresis occurs when an individual is asleep. 

Symptoms: Though most bedwetters struggle with incontinence during the night, Nocturnal Enuresis can also occur when an individual falls asleep during long journeys or anywhere in the home. There may not always be a conscious urge to urinate as a result.

Causes: The causes for this form of incontinence are quite unclear: while some individuals have a tendency to produce less urine during the night, others produce more. The latter therefore explains the urge to urinate during the night.

Children will usually grow out of bedwetting, so long as it is not a result of pathology or health conditions.

For adults, ageing is a significant contributor to bedwetting, especially if it results from age-associated conditions such as dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Managing incontinence

Depending on the severity and type of incontinence, some individuals may require surgery or medication. 

For others, simple lifestyle changes and exploring different types of incontinence products can provide easy, discreet relief and help to avoid difficult or embarrassing social situations. 

For men and women, disposable briefs and insert pads can be utilised to manage the symptoms of stress and urge incontinence effectively. 

For those with reflex or functional incontinence, and regular bedwetters, a range of bedding and washable products are a great option for managing incontinence around the home. 

Further help

For further advice and information, you can contact the Incontinence Shop here.

27 February 2020