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Types of incontinence

Young woman hugging and older woman - understanding the type of incontinence your loved one has

Common types of incontinence

You want to give your loved one the best care possible. So you’ll find it helpful to know which specific type of incontinence they have. With this information, you’ll be better able to provide them with the right products for their situation. And help them manage their condition more effectively. Which means they feel comfortable and confident.
 
Below, we describe seven types of incontinence and their different causes and symptoms. Some are unique to women, others found only in men. The most common types are stress incontinence and urge incontinence – a person can actually have a combination of the two. 
Stress Urinary Incontinence (SUI)

Usually shortened to stress incontinence, it’s the most common type for women to have. Around 10% of male incontinence is of this sort.It often happens when the pelvic floor muscles that support the bladder become weakened. When you laugh or cough, pressure on your bladder increases. The pelvic floor muscles can‘t tighten enough to keep all the urine in. So some leaks out – usually only a small amount, but in some cases it can be more.


Women - Stress incontinence is most likely to affect women during pregnancy, after childbirth and after the age of 40. Those are times when their pelvic floor muscles are likely to be damaged and/or weakened. Women can have this type at any age though. One in three experience it at some point in their lives. It commonly happens to young women when playing sports.

Urge Incontinence

This is also known as “overactive bladder”. It happens when you have a sudden urge to urinate and the bladder automatically expels urine, without them being able to stop it. Usually, the body gives little, if any, warning. There can be quite a large amount of urine leakage. The average person empties their bladder between four and eight times a day. Does your loved one need to urinate more often than that? Do they wake several times during the night, on a regular basis, to go to the toilet? These could be signs of urge incontinence.


Men - Urge incontinence is the most common type of incontinence for men. It’s often the result of an enlarged prostate.

Other types for women and men

  • Functional Incontinence
    Some people can’t reach the bathroom in time because of difficulties caused by a physical or mental illness. They have what’s called functional incontinence.   

  • Mixed Incontinence
    This is usually a combination of stress incontinence and urge incontinence, with one being more noticeable than the other.

  • Neurological Bladder Disorders
    With some people, their brain can’t communicate properly with their bladder. As a result, they can’t control their bladder or empty it completely. Neurological bladder disorders like this can be caused by any of a number of illnesses. If you think your loved one might have this type of incontinence, try not to jump to conclusions. Instead, take her or him to see a doctor as soon as possible. A professional diagnosis will help to put your mind at rest.

Other types for men

  • Post-micturition dribble
    This is when your bladder (urethra) doesn't empty completely and continues to leak after urinating. It’s common with weakened pelvic floor muscles. 

  • Overflow incontinence
    If someone suffers from a constant or episodic flow of urine, they have overflow incontinence. It’s can be caused by an obstruction or nerve damage. 

Unsure about symptoms?

If your loved one’s symptoms aren’t clear, you might not be sure which type of incontinence she or he has. Don’t worry, here’s what you can do to find out. 
 
Try keeping a diary to record their urination pattern for a week or two. You'll then have a record to discuss with your doctor. We advise you to contact a doctor to get a proper diagnosis and advice on managing your loved one’s condition.
 
 
When learning about incontinence, you’re bound to come across unfamiliar terms. Find out what they mean at Glossary.

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