There are a number of different types of urinary incontinence:
Urge incontinence (overactive bladder)
Individuals experience an urge to urinate which they may not always be able to control in time before they reach a toilet; this in turn may lead to involuntary loss of urine. Individuals may also need to urinate frequently (8 or more times in 24 hours) and awaken regularly in the night to urinate. The majority of older people presenting with urinary incontinence have urge incontinence. It is usually caused by the detrusor muscles in the walls of the bladder which are contracting too often. Men with an overactive bladder may be recommended by a healthcare professional to use an external continence device to collect the urine.
Stress urinary incontinence
Symptoms include involuntary leakage of small volumes of urine during activities that increase intra abdominal pressure, such as physical exertion, sneezing, coughing, laughing and sexual intercourse. This is the most common type of urinary incontinence in younger women. Stress urinary incontinence can also occur in post-menopausal women due to age related physiological changes, or due to impairment of the contractibility of the pelvic floor following labour and vaginal births. Those effected by stress urinary incontinence may choose to wear incontinence pads.
Mixed urinary incontinence
Those effected experience symptoms of both urge incontinence and stress incontinence. It is usually experienced by women following labour and vaginal birth of more than one child, being caused by a combination of both bladder and pelvic floor dysfunction. Those effected by mixed urinary incontinence may choose to wear incontinence pads.
Overflow incontinence (chronic urinary retention)
Individuals are unable to entirely empty their bladder upon urination, which can lead to regular leaking. Those who are effected may feel the need to urinate frequently throughout the day and night but may only pass small amounts of urine each time or struggle to pass any at all, and they may also feel that their bladder is continuously full. Overflow incontinence is more common in men, but women can also experience it. It is usually caused by some form of blockage or obstruction in the bladder, such as an enlarged prostate, bladder stones or constipation. It may also be caused by the detrusor muscles in the bladder not contracting enough, as a result of nerve damage or particular medications. Individuals with overflow incontinence may be recommended by a healthcare professional to try intermittent self catheterisation to enable them to fully empty their bladder.
Individuals are unable to store any amount of urine in their bladder, which results in the regular passing of large quantities of urine or the infrequent passing of large amounts of urine with frequent leaking. Total incontinence is usually caused by a problem with the bladder from birth, a spinal cord injury or a bladder fistula.
Those effected usually experience urinary incontinence because they are unable to get to the bathroom. This can be due to a variety of reasons, such as cognitive impairment, immobility, and individuals who are dependant on asking others to assist them with their toileting needs.