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Types Of Incontinence

There are a number of different types of incontinence and it is important to understand which type of incontinence you (or the person you care for) is experiencing to help manage incontinence effectively.

The main types of Urinary Incontinence are:

Stress Incontinence

Stress incontinence is the most common type of incontinence. It occurs when the pressure in the bladder becomes too great for the bladder outlet to withstand. This is usually caused by weak pelvic floor muscles. Stress incontinence is often related to childbirth, obesity, the menopause and increasing age. Stress incontinence can occur in men who have received treatment for prostrate cancer, especially those who have undergone radiotherapy or prostatectomy.

Read more about Stress Incontinence.

Urge Incontinence

Urge incontinence, otherwise known as unstable or overactive bladder, is the second most common type of incontinence. People with urge incontinence experience an urgent desire to pass urine. Sometimes they pass urine before they are able to reach a toilet. Urge incontinence is caused when the bladder muscle contracts too early and the normal control is reduced. Urge incontinence may be experienced by people with certain neurological disorders such as Parkinson's disease, Multiple Sclerosis, spinal cord injury or after a stroke.

Read more about Urge Incontinence.

Mixed incontinence

Some people have a combination of stress and urge incontinence.

Read more about Mixed Incontinence.

Overflow incontinence

Overflow incontinence occurs when there is an obstruction to the outflow of urine. The obstruction prevents the normal emptying of the bladder. A pool of urine constantly remains in the bladder that cannot empty properly.

Read more about Overflow Incontinence.

Nocturnal Enuresis (Bedwetting)

Nocturnal Enuresis occurs most frequently with children but many adults are also are affected.Symptoms of Nocturnal Enuresis are similar to those of Urge Incontinence with the person experiencing an urgent need to pass urine and being unable to reach a toilet in time.

Faecal Incontinence

Faecal Incontinence, otherwise known as Bowel Incontinence, is an inability to control bowel movements, resulting in the involuntary passage of stools. The experience of faecal incontinence can vary from person to person. Some people feel a sudden, urgent need to go to the toilet, and incontinence occurs because they are unable to reach a toilet in time. Faecal incontinence is not a condition in itself. It is a symptom of an underlying problem or medical condition. Many cases are caused by diarrhoea, constipation, or weakening of the ring of muscle that controls the opening of the anus. It can also be caused by long-term conditions such as diabetes, multiple sclerosis and dementia.

Read more about Faecal (Bowel) Incontinence. 

There are times when people may experience incontinence temporarily, these include when experiencing a Urinary Tract infection (UTI) or following a stroke.

What type of Incontinence do I have?

To assess for the two main types listed before (Stress and Urge) or Mixed incontinence, look at the box below to help you assess what type you may have.

Questions to ask yourself Stress Urge Mixed
Do you pass urine more than 7 times a day? Sometimes Yes No
Do you pass urine more than once during the night? Not usually Most nights Most nights
Do you ever have to hurry to reach the toilet in time (for urine)? No Yes Yes
Do you ever not reach the toilet in time (for urine)? No Often Often
Do you ever leak urine when you laugh, sneeze, cough, run or jump? Yes No Always
If you leak, is it just a drop or is it sometimes quite a bit more? Few Drops More (usually) More
You are comfortable holding your urine, but you need to pass it more than 7 times a day, in small or large amounts each time?  small or large amounts each time?
See your doctor; you might have a urine infection (small amounts) or diabetes (large amounts and you are thirsty).

NB This table should only be used as a guide and is by no means an accurate diagnosis, for which you should refer to your GP or local continence advisor.

No matter what type of Incontinence you or the person you care for is experiencing it is important you discuss this with a Health Professional. Incontinence is often a symptom of an underlying condition and in many cases simple steps can help improve the condition.

Incontinence Types and Causes Overview Video