Types of incontinence include:
• Stress incontinence. This is loss of urine when there is pressure or stress on your bladder by coughing, sneezing, laughing, exercising or lifting something heavy. Stress incontinence occurs when the sphincter muscle of the bladder is weakened. In women, physical changes resulting from pregnancy, childbirth and menopause can cause stress incontinence. In men, removal of the prostate gland can lead to this type of incontinence.
• Urge incontinence. This is a sudden, intense urge to urinate, followed by an involuntary loss of urine. The bladder muscle contracts and may give you a warning of only a few seconds to a minute to reach a toilet. With urge incontinence, there may be a need to urinate often, including throughout the night. Urge incontinence may be caused by urinary tract infections, bladder irritants, bowel problems, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, injury or nervous system damage associated with multiple sclerosis. If there’s no known cause, urge incontinence is also called overactive bladder.
• Overflow incontinence. This is an inability to empty your bladder and may cause frequent or constant dribble urine. Sometimes it feels as if the bladder is never completely empty. With overflow incontinence, producing only a weak stream of urine is not uncommon. This type of incontinence may occur in people with a damaged bladder, blocked urethra or nerve damage from diabetes and in men with prostate gland problems.
• Mixed incontinence. Experiencing symptoms of more than one type of urinary incontinence, such as stress incontinence and urge incontinence.
• Functional incontinence. Many older adults, especially people in nursing homes, experience incontinence simply because a physical or mental impairment keeps them from making it to the toilet in time. For example, a person with severe arthritis may not be able to unbutton his or her pants quickly enough. This is called functional incontinence.
• Gross total incontinence. This term is sometimes used to describe continuous leaking of urine, day and night, or the periodic uncontrollable leaking of large volumes of urine. In such cases, the bladder has no storage capacity. Some people have this type of incontinence because they were born with an anatomical defect. This type of incontinence can be caused by injuries to the spinal cord or urinary system or by an abnormal opening (fistula) between the bladder and an adjacent structure, such as the vagina.
Fecal incontinence is the inability to control your bowel movements, causing stool (feces) to leak unexpectedly from your rectum. Also called bowel incontinence, fecal incontinence ranges from an occasional leakage of stool while passing gas to a complete loss of bowel control.
Complications of chronic urinary incontinence include:
• Skin problems. Urinary incontinence can lead to rashes, skin infections and sores (skin ulcers) from constantly wet skin.
• Urinary tract infections. Incontinence increases your risk of repeated urinary tract infections.
• Changes in your activities. Urinary incontinence may keep you from participating in normal activities.
• Changes in your personal life. Perhaps most distressing is the impact incontinence can have on your personal life.