Not all incontinence is the same. Incontinence can take many forms and, depending on many factors, it can have different triggers or causes. Here are some of the more frequently occurring forms of urinary incontinence, as well as what causes them.
This happens when we urinate while performing activities that input stress on the bladder, such as exercising, laughing, coughing, sneezing or even during sex. Stress incontinence is often the result of poor pelvic floor control or a weakening of the muscles that support the bladder. It can occur at any stage in life, but it is especially common for women during menopause, pregnancy and after childbirth. At times it can also be side-effects of medication.
Urge incontinence occurs when we need to urinate so suddenly and urgently that we may not make it to the bathroom in time. Urge incontinence is the result of damaged muscles around the bladder or your brain sending out the wrong signals to the bladder. Again, urge incontinence can occur at any stage in life, but it becomes increasingly common as we get older.
It has been increasingly observed in men. Triggers may include diseases of the central nervous system (like dementia or Parkinson’s disease), bladder stones and urinary tract infections. Sometimes the cause can’t be detected.
An overactive bladder happens when the muscles in the bladder stop functioning as they should and no longer hold urine properly, forcing us to visit the toilet far more frequently than someone with a healthy bladder. Strictly speaking, an overactive bladder is not a form of incontinence, although incontinence can be a symptom of the condition. It can be caused by drinking too many diuretics, such as coffee and alcohol, and it is a result of some health conditions.
Unlike other forms of urinary incontinence, functional incontinence happens simply because we don’t know that we need to go to the toilet, can't physically get to the toilet, or can’t find one in time, so we end up urinating where we shouldn’t. It is often caused by the brain not sending out the correct signals and is common in people with dementia or with other mental health conditions. Functional incontinence can also be the result of poor eyesight or limited mobility.
Overflow incontinence occurs when the bladder doesn’t empty itself properly, leaving us with excess urine and a feeling of incomplete bladder emptying. This urine can continue to dribble out and leave us wet, without us having any control over it. Overflow incontinence is often caused by a narrowing of, or blockage in, the urethra. It is common in men with prostate cancer or women with pelvic organ prolapse, as well as a number of other common health conditions.
This happens when we suffer from more than one type of incontinence simultaneously. While mixed incontinence could be a combination of any of the types, the most common combination is urge incontinence and stress incontinence. This results in the frequent and sudden need to urinate, as well as leakage.
Incontinence can develop for many reasons, from the natural ageing process through to pregnancy or surgery. If you think you are suffering from incontinence, visit your GP or a medical professional to accurately diagnose the problem or find the products you need to help keep you comfortable from day to day.