Types of Incontinence

Having a weak bladder is many things: an embarrassment; an inconvenience; a worry and a strain on one’s self esteem.

But urinary incontinence is definitely not a disease. In many cases, urinary incontinence simply means a woman’s pelvic floor muscles are too weak to do their job of supporting and controlling the bladder.

There are a variety of causes, and it happens to women of all ages. Even athletes and performers, young and middle-aged, healthy and unwell.

It’s just not talked about much. But speak to anyone who’s had children and you’re bound to hear funny stories about someone who’s trickled unexpectedly, or embarrassed herself after laughing too hard.

You don’t have to live with urinary incontinence

For many women, urinary incontinence comes as a shock: a surprise side effect of childbirth or menopause or a medical condition such as a urinary tract infection or kidney stone.

For many, bladder control is something we do unconsciously most of the time, most of our lives, and so take it for granted – until it deserts us. But don’t fret: female incontinence can frequently be treated, often cured, and always managed.

First of all, it’s helpful to work out which type of incontinence you have and to learn more about it, like why it happens and what you can do to fix it.

The three types of urinary incontinence

There are different types of urinary incontinence, all with different causes and symptoms.

Urge Incontinence

Urge Incontinence usually happens when you suddenly leak urine after feeling an urgent and immediate need to go to the bathroom. This particular form of incontinence is caused by the bladder muscles being either underactive or overactive. If you have urge incontinence you may lose large amounts of urine. There’s a feeling of not being able to reach the toilet fast enough.

Stress Incontinence

Stress Incontinence occurs when your pelvic floor muscles are weakened from an outside influence, like a cough, laugh or sneeze, which causes a small amount of urine to leak from the bladder. Stress incontinence is often treated by pelvic floor exercises.

 

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Overflow Incontinence

Overflow Incontinence, is when you continuously leak small trickling amounts of wee and you feel you never completely empty your bladder. If you’re not getting the urge to wee or have a blockage in the tube that passes from the bladder out of the body (urethra), you may have overflow incontinence.

Some women can manage their urinary incontinence without much effort or professional help (especially when it’s not too bad). However, if you have secondary symptoms (like blood in your urine) or if your incontinence causes you anxiety or depression or is affecting your work, social life and sex life, then a visit to your GP or a referral to an urologist is probably a very good idea.

What causes urinary incontinence?

The severity of urinary incontinence can vary from leaking urine when you have a fit of laughter or lift a heavy object, to needing to go to the toilet so urgently you can’t get to the toilet fast enough and end up wetting yourself.

Urinary incontinence generally occurs when the pelvic floor muscles are weak or not working properly. The weak muscles cause the urethra (the tube that connects the bladder to the outside of the body) to not close properly and so urine may leak out. Excessive weight or pressure on the bladder can also cause urinary incontinence.

What’s known as an overactive bladder can also cause incontinence. If your bladder constricts too frequently it will leave little or no time to get to the toilet. This might be the case if there is a blockage in the urethra or a problem with the nervous system that prevents the message about the full bladder from reaching the brain in time.

Urinary incontinence risk factors

There are a number of factors that may increase your chances of suffering from urinary incontinence. Some of these factors are:

  • Obesity is a proven link to urinary incontinence. The extra weight puts additional pressure on the bladder causing it to leak.

  • Smoking indirectly increases the chances of incontinence because smokers often have a chronic cough that can put pressure on the bladder.

  • Pregnancy and other female life events such as childbirth and menopause tend to bring on incontinence in a significant proportion of women. Pregnancy incontinence can happen immediately after the birth, or even years later when you reach menopause.

  • Aging is a risk factor because the urethra and bladder lose muscle elasticity with age 

  • Excessive alcohol consumption can cause the muscles around your bladder to relax and springing a leak is more likely when this happens.


Diagnosing the types of urinary incontinence

To help pinpoint the cause of your problem, the doctor may ask you to keep a diary detailing how much fluid you’re taking in, how often you go to the toilet, and how many times your bladder lets you down during a specific period. Your doctor may do a physical examination, and check for any leakage by asking you to cough. They may also evaluate the strength of your pelvic floor muscles. Sometimes ultrasounds are used to get a big picture of what’s going on inside.

Treating urinary incontinence

There are several ways to treat urinary incontinence. What follows is a basic rundown of the most commonly used incontinence treatments:

  • Cutting down on excessive alcohol or caffeine

  • Weight loss if the sufferer is obese

  • Pelvic floor (Kegel) exercises can be performed to strengthen the muscles surrounding the bladder

  • Delaying the time between feeling the urge to urinate and actually going to the toilet – this helps to strengthen the bladder and urethra

  • Creating a timetable whereby you go to the bathroom at set times during the day, as opposed to waiting for the urge to occur

  • Medication, corrective devices and surgery are also options although these treatments are most commonly used for extreme cases


Living with urinary incontinence

The first thing you should know is that every type of urinary incontinence (Urge, Stress and Overflow) can be easily managed using Poise products . These highly absorbent slim-line products are just as discreet regular sanitary orperiod products but offer more absorbency and protection.

If you have a fairly mild case of incontinence, doing pelvic floor exercises, as part of a regular exercise routine could be a big help and improve the reliability of your bladder whilst Poise products help keep you protected as you work on improving your condition. Speak to your doctor about finding a routine that is right for you.

 

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Incontinence Causes

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