Types of Incontinence

Urinary incontinence, or the involuntary loss of urine, is a common health condition in the United States. According to the National Association for Continence (NAFC), 25 million people in the US experience some form of urinary incontinence every day. Incontinence can occur as a result of urinary tract infections (UTIs), constipation, caffeine consumption, or as a side effect of some medications (such as a diuretic).

There are five types of urinary incontinence - urge incontinence, stress incontinence, overflow incontinence, functional incontinence, and mixed incontinence. Urinary incontinence in women can occur after pregnancy and childbirth, as well as in the post-menopause years as estrogen levels decrease. For men, an enlarged prostate or prostate surgery may trigger or exacerbate the loss of bladder control. Incontinence is also common in individuals with certain medical conditions like obesity, nerve damage, or disabilities that impact the function of the bladder muscles, such as a spinal cord injury.

However, there are multiple treatments option available for bladder control problems, from kegel exercises and biofeedback practices to medications and even surgery. The type of incontinence an individual is diagnosed with will heavily influence how treatment is delivered, as well as which incontinence products are recommended. Aeroflow Urology provides a wide variety of incontinence products to manage symptoms. From bladder control pads to disposable briefs, Aeroflow Urology can keep you protected. If you're newly experiencing urine leakage or symptoms of an overactive bladder, it's important to consult with your health care provider or urologist to develop an effective treatment plan.

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Urge Incontinence

The most common of the five types of urinary incontinence is urge incontinence. While the cause is not always known, urge incontinence occurs when the bladder muscles contract or spasm so forcefully that the individual is not able to control their flow of urine. This loss of control can lead to frequent, unwanted leakage, and is also commonly referred to as having an overactive bladder. The frequency of urination that is often accompanied with urge incontinence can make the condition extremely disruptive to everyday life. Those with more severe cases may feel the need to go to the bathroom every few minutes. Biofeedback practices such as bladder training and timed voiding are often used to treat this type of incontinence. Depending on the cause and severity, medications may also be prescribed.

Urge Incontinence Symptoms:

  • Strong, sudden urge to urinate followed by an involuntary loss of urine
  • Loss of urine while sleeping

  • Urge Incontinence Causes:

    Conditions that may contribute to urge incontinence include:

  • Obesity
  • Bladder inflammation
  • Prostate blockage and surgery
  • Nerve damage
  • Spinal cord injury

  • Stress Incontinence

    Stress incontinence occurs when a sudden pressure, or stress, is placed on the bladder resulting in urine leakage. Incontinence products like bladder control pads, male guards, and protective underwear can be especially helpful due to the unpredictable nature of stress urinary incontinence. Urologists will sometimes use a pessary, or vaginal insert, for women with stress incontinence in order to support the bladder muscles and urethra.

    Stress Incontinence Symptoms:

    Stress incontinence can occur during various types of physical activity, including:

  • Coughing, sneezing, or laughing
  • Lifting heavy objects
  • Exercising, jumping, or bending over

  • Stress Incontinence Causes:

    Stress incontinence can be caused by a weakening of the urinary sphincter or pelvic floor muscles. The urinary sphincter and pelvic floor muscles give an individual the ability to control their flow of urine. This weakening can be caused by:

  • Prostate blockage or surgery
  • Pregnancy and childbirth
  • Obesity
  • Chronic coughing

  • Overflow Incontinence

    Overflow incontinence is characterized by the frequent or constant dribbling of urine due to the inability to completely empty the bladder. An individual with overflow incontinence may experience frequently passing a small amount of urine, yet never feeling like the bladder is fully empty. This urinary retention can lead to a higher risk for urinary tract infections (UTIs) due to the bladder continually holding a small amount of urine. This retained urine can act as a breeding ground for bacteria, causing the infection.

    Treatment options for overflow incontinence include medications, lifestyle changes, catheter usage, and timed urination.

    Overflow Incontinence Symptoms:

  • Urine leaks or frequent dribbling of urine
  • Loss of urine while sleeping
  • Inconsistent or weak urine stream
  • Inability to fully empty the bladder after voiding
  • Frequent voiding of small amounts of urine
  • Frequent urinary tract infections (UTIs)

  • Overflow Incontinence Causes:

  • Blockage in the urethra
  • Bladder stones
  • Enlarged prostate
  • Side effects of medications
  • Nerve damage due to certain conditions such as multiple sclerosis, diabetes, or spina bifida

  • Functional Incontinence

    Functional incontinence is a type of incontinence that does not stem from urethral or bladder dysfunction. It occurs most frequently among individuals with mobility or cognitive issues.

    Functional Incontinence Symptoms:

  • Inability to reach the toilet and undress in time for voiding

  • Functional Incontinence Causes:

  • Back pain, joint pain, or arthritis
  • Dementia
  • Medications that cause extreme drowsiness
  • Parkinson's Disease
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Difficulty transferring from a wheelchair to the toilet

  • Mixed Incontinence

    As the name suggests, mixed urinary incontinence occurs when an individual experiences more than one type of incontinence. Oftentimes, mixed incontinence refers to the coexistence of urge and stress incontinence. Treatment of mixed incontinence typically involves a combination of the same treatment options used in stress and urge incontinence cases.

    Treatment for Urinary Incontinence

    While there isn’t a "cure all" solution to achieve continence, there are treatment options to manage your symptoms. Pelvic floor exercises, bladder training, and timed voiding are just a few of the various treatment options available to those who experience accidental urine leakage. Some individuals may also require medications, botox injections, or surgical interventions to manage their incontinence.

    For many people, the best treatment option is to manage symptoms through small lifestyle changes. Avoiding diuretics, such as coffee, or foods that irritate the bladder can go a long way in helping manage incontinence symptoms.

    Finding the right mix of continence care supplies for an individual's needs will allow them to maintain their daily activities, as well.

    Incontinence Supplies Through Insurance

    For many individuals, utilizing disposable incontinence supplies is a great way to manage urinary incontinence while also maintaining quality of life. Oftentimes, your healthcare provider will recommend a specific product type to fit your needs. These products range in absorbency levels to provide protection from light levels of leakage to heavier, more frequent incontinence.

    Utilizing disposable continence care products on a daily basis can be expensive, however most Medicaid plans will provide full coverage of these supplies. Aeroflow Urology can help you determine your coverage for the high-quality continence care supplies you need. Simply submit your information through our qualification form and we'll take care of the rest.

    Information provided on the Aeroflow Urology blog is not intended as a substitute to medical advice or care from a healthcare professional. Aeroflow recommends consulting your healthcare provider if you are experiencing medical issues relating to incontinence.