Types of Incontinence

While the net result is the same for all types of incontinence, unplanned leakage, there is actually more than a single type, and because of the variety of incontinence types, it is important to consult a physician to understand the best way to go about managing an individual case of incontinence. Since some types of incontinence are caused by weak muscles, others by muscle spasms, and still others by malfunctioning sphincters, understanding the the type of incontinence is the first step in identifying the cause of the incontinence.

Neurological damage frequently results in urge incontinence, which manifests itself as the sudden and incredibly, overpowering urge to void. With such a strong, immediate urge it is quite common for a person to have an accident even when they are on the way to the toilet. Urge incontinence occurs when the nerves that connect bladder control to the brain have been damaged. This damage allows a violent, sudden contraction of the bladder, and makes it virtually impossible for a person to reach a bathroom in time. There are many underlying medical conditions that can contribute to urge incontinence, including Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s Disease, Dementia, Stroke and Alzheimer’s Disease just to name a few.

Urge incontinence is marked by frequent trips to the restroom, sometimes as often as every other hour, and the urge is consistent around the clock. As may be expected, getting up to go to the bathroom every two hours during the night, can make for a horrible night’s sleep. The difficulty with urge incontinence is that as soon as a person feels that they need to urinate, it is already happening. So urge incontinence can also result in wetting the bed.

The next type of incontinence is known as stress incontinence, which shows itself as urine leakage when sudden pressure is applied to the bladder. The pressure does not have to be extreme as in a cough or sneeze. Even laughing or lifting a heavy object can bring on symptoms of stress incontinence. This type of incontinence most often is caused by a damaged muscle, or sphincter, which allows the bladder to leak.

Stress incontinence is most commonly found in women, and it occurs as a result of the trauma caused to the body after pregnancy and childbirth. Everything from surgery to fractures can cause damage to the sphincter muscles that control the flow of urine from the bladder. When a woman is suffering from stress incontinence she may find that she visits the bathroom more frequently during the day just to avoid having an embarrassing accident.

Sometimes just standing up exerts enough pressure on the bladder to trigger stress incontinence. Other places where stress incontinence is common is in the course of normal exercise or when sneezing, coughing or laughing. It is also possible to suffer from mixed incontinence, where the incontinence is caused by a weak or damaged muscle as well as nerve damage. Mixed incontinence occurs when a person suffers from both stress incontinence as well as urge incontinence.

A third type of incontinence happens when there is too much urine in the bladder, so it simply overflows. Not surprisingly, this type of incontinence is known as overflow incontinence. The bladder does not signal that it needs to be emptied, so at some point it simply becomes overfilled, and urine leakage occurs. There are many underlying symptoms for overflow incontinence including injury, surgery, and disease. This type of incontinence can be very frustrating, because the bladder may feel full even though it does not seem to empty properly. The urine stream may be weak, and it may take a long time to be able to go to the bathroom even just a little. As a result, the bladder overfills, and small amounts of urine are leaked to relieve the pressure it places on the bladder.

Faecal incontinence occurs when the bowel involuntary leaks stool, and this type of incontinence is most common in the elderly. However, it can be brought on by injury, especially to the spinal cord; disease, like Multiple Sclerosis; or surgery, causing muscle damage. When faecal incontinence occurs in tandem with urinary incontinence, it is known as double incontinence.

Finally, there is functional incontinence, which occurs as a result of a person’s mobility, or lack thereof. When a person is restricted to a wheelchair, confined to a bed or suffers limited range of movement, it can be difficult, if not impossible, to reach the bathroom in a timely manner. This delay then causes urine leakage resulting in functional incontinence. A positive way to deal with functional incontinence is to remove as many roadblocks as possible, so that the person can reach the toilet in time. Look for clothing with easy fasteners, and clear an easy travel path to the bathroom to help the person with functional incontinence remain dry. When dealing with incontinence of any sort, it is very helpful to understand the different types of incontinence and what causes each one.

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