Types of Incontinence

Incontinence can be divided into two main types - urinary and faecal incontinence. The first one refers to inability to control urine flow, while the second type is marked by inability to control bowel movements. Both types of incontinence are further divided into temporary and persistent. Urinary incontinence is more common than inability to control bowel movements and is further subdivided into the following types:

Stress incontinence. This type of incontinence actually does not have anything to do with stress as such but it is related to pressure to urinary bladder such as overweight, pregnancy, sneezing, lifting heavy objects, exercise and some medical conditions.

Overflow incontinence. People with this type of incontinence usually have difficulties emptying their urinary bladder. Overflow incontinence most often affects men.

Urge incontinence or overactive bladder. This type of incontinence is characterized by so strong urge to urinate that the patient has problems reaching to the toilet in time. It is usually a result of injury to nerves or muscles which help control urinary flow but it can also be caused by some medical conditions.

Functional incontinence. Urine leaking with this type of incontinence most often affects the elderly suffering from physical or/and mental diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and arthritis preventing them from reaching the toilet in time.

Mixed incontinence. It is possible to leak urine due to two types of incontinence simultaneously, most often due to overactive bladder and stress incontinence. Mixed incontinence typically affects women.

Total incontinence. This is the severest type of incontinence and it is marked by complete loss of control over urinary bladder resulting in a constant urine leakage.

Bedwetting. This type of incontinence is seen in children and is most often a result of the immaturity of the urinary bladder. Bedwetting in young children (by about the age of 5 years) is normal, while occasional “night accidents“ in older children usually are not a cause of concern either. But if bedwetting persists, it is necessary to seek medical attention because in rare cases, it can be a sign of an underlying medical condition.

It is crucial to establish the type of urinary incontinence the patient is suffering from because the treatment of incontinence depends on the underlying cause which is identified a lot easier once the type of incontinence has been diagnosed. Treatment varies greatly from one patient to another, the underlying cause and its severity. The embarrassing problem can be often treated with simple lifestyle changes but it may also need more invasive treatments including surgery. But unfortunately, even surgery may not be able to “fix“ the problem in all patients. In this case, the doctor can prescribe treatments to ease the condition.

Identification of the underlying cause is also crucial for treatment of faecal incontinence. This problem is most often caused by diarrhoea, constipation and haemorrhoids, and can be successfully treated with dietary changes in most cases. Faecal incontinence caused by a medical condition always requires treatment of the condition which is responsible for faecal leakage and may involve treatment with medications or surgical treatment, or a combination of both.