Understanding Incontinence.

 With incontinence a large part of living in confidence is first understanding the condition and then taking positive steps to manage it.

An important point to remember is that everyone with bladder and incontinence problems can be helped and in many cases the cured.

It is worth talking to a doctor or surgery practice nurse if a leak noticed during exercise or even when coughing or laughing.

There are a variety of reasons why bladder weakness or faecal incontinence is experienced.

Normally, when the bladder is full it sends a signal to the brain. The brain then tells the pelvic floor muscles to relax and the opening at the neck of the bladder to open. The bladder muscle contracts and pushes the urine out. With urinary incontinence this function is impeded be due to a number of factors

Factors causing urinary incontinence

Weakened Pelvic Floor Muscles – The bladder and outlet passage are supported and held in place by a sling of muscles called pelvic floor muscles that keep the bladder closed. If these muscles lose their strength and/or then even everyday activities may cause leaking.  Being overweight can also put an added strain onto pelvic floor muscles which can exaggerate the problem

Menopause – The reduction in the quantity of estrogen associated with the menopause can result in leakages of urine.

Kidney or urinary tract infections can cause temporary bladder weakness or incontinence. Severe constipation can also cause these conditions to occur.

Nerve damage – Incontinence can result from spinal cord injuries or be related to nerve diseases like multiple sclerosis.

Surgery, Medications, or an oversensitive bladder can also lead to bladder weakness.

Understanding Incontinence.

Types of Incontinence

There are a number of different types of incontinence which can be summarized as follows;

Stress Incontinence

This is by far the most common type of incontinence and is common in women after childbirth or after the menopause.  Usually only a small amount of urine leaks out caused by weakened pelvic floor muscles but this can be enough to cause embarrassment. This often happens due to p

hysical exertion) but can be triggered by sneezing, laughing or coughing.

Pelvic Floor Exercises

For those with stress incontinence pelvic floor exercises it can often help improve bladder control.. This kind of physiotherapy is generally regarded as the first treatment for stress incontinence. Up to 70% of mild to moderate cases can be improved, or even cured, by regular and correct pelvic floor exercises over a relatively a  short timescale.

Urge Incontinence

Often referred to as an overactive bladder, urge incontinence is the second most common type of incontinence. It may happen at any time and can be caused by a sudden change of position and is often worse in times of stress. Another symptom of urge incontinence is a need to go to the toilet frequently during the night.

With this type of incontinence, the bladder contracts involuntarily, leading to the release of large amounts of urine. This is caused by a problem with the messages between the bladder and the brain. The bladder may tell the brain it is full too early, the bladder muscle squeezes and empties the bladder completely – often before you have a chance to get to a toilet.


Most common in older men who have a slightly enlarged prostate gland this type of incontinence is known as overflow or drip incontinence.

The urine outflow tube passes through the middle of the prostate, and any enlargement of this gland presses on the urethra (urine tube). This makes it difficult for the bladder to empty and fill up completely, and a pool of urine constantly remains in the bladder. The area behind the obstruction is highly pressurised and the bladder regularly releases a small involuntary dribble of urine. This condition is also known as incomplete bladder emptying.


Having no control over the bladder at all is referred to as reflex incontinence. Some people have it all their lives or it can develop after injury or illness.

Mixed Incontinence

Some people experience mixed symptoms at the same time. It is possible for people to experience both Urge incontinence and Stress Incontinence at the same time as the causes of these types of incontinence differ

Understanding Incontinence.Faecal Incontinence

Faecal incontinence is more common than, but people tend not to talk about it openly. Faecal incontinence is the involuntary leakage of faecal material from the back passage. The substance that leaks away may be semi-solid or liquid. This type of incontinence may occur only occasionally or it may be a persistent pro

blem of many years’ duration.

Only a professional trained in these symptoms heighted above can truly diagnose and treat the condition. A GP will often refer you to a specialized Continence Advisor for assessment to make sure that the right help and treatment is received to improve symptoms.

Understanding Incontinence.Incontinence Protection

The right incontinence protection, such as pads, will help make sure that leaks are absorbed and faeces and odours are contained. Incontinence protection comes in many forms including washable incontinence underwear and disposable incontinence pads, which come in a range of sizes and absorbencies, for both men and women. Other incontinence protection products include absorbent under pads for chairs and beds, waterproof mattress covers and duvet protectors.

Most of these products can be purchased via the internet.





License: Images author owned

Robert, the author of this article has worked in the healthcare industry for many years and specialises in supplying living aids and products to those in need. 

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