What is incontinence?

  • Incontinence can be a very upsetting condition both for those suffering with it and the people around them. However, the first and most important point to remember is that everyone with incontinence can be helped, and many can be completely cured.

  • What is incontinence?

      There are two types of incontinence:r
    • Urinary incontinence - when someone loses control of their bladder.
    • Faecal (or Bowel) incontinence - when someone loses control of their bowels.

    This may happen all or most of the time, or may just be a case of the occasional unfortunate leakage. Urinary incontinence is far more common than faecal incontinence – although both conditions affect millions of people every day.

  • Urinary incontinence

    If incontinence problems have already been diagnosed then you can find out more about specific conditions in the section. If a diagnosis has not yet been made by a healthcare professional, the following questions about the symptoms may give you a better idea of what your loved one’s problem could be and will help with any future discussions with a Healthcare professional.

    Bladder Problems Q&A: assessing a patient condition

    Q. Do they have a sudden urge to go to the toilet or are they unable to hold on and reach the toilet in time?
    A. They may have Urge Incontinence. This is a condition where the desire to pass urine can come on so quickly it does not allow sufficient time to get to the toilet. If they have urge incontinence they may leak on the way to the toilet or soon after they have experienced the initial urge to empty their bladder. Some people find hearing running water or putting the key in the front door may trigger episodes of urge incontinence.

    Q. Do they leak or dribble urine when they sneeze or during exercise?
    A. They may have Stress incontinence . Leaking small amounts of urine when you cough, sneeze, laugh or exercise can occur if there is a weakness in the pelvic floor muscles. This type of leakage is called stress incontinence. It is more common in women as pelvic floor muscles can be weakened by pregnancy, childbirth and menopause. Men may experience this type of leakage following surgery for prostate problems

    Q. Do they find the need to go to the toilet very often but then are only able to pass small amounts of urine at a time?
    A. They may have Overflow incontinence. If the bladder is unable to empty effectively this is known as overflow incontinence. Other medical conditions may cause obstructions which prevent the bladder from emptying completely which means there is very little space for new urine to be stored and frequent visits to the toilet to pass small amounts of urine often result. Some people with incomplete bladder emptying also experience a constant dribble of urine which they are unable to control and people with this type of problem may also feel that their bladder is never fully empty

    Q. Do they have a mixture of the above symptoms?
    A. They may have Mixed Incontinence. This is where more than one type of incontinence is experienced e.g. Leaking urine when coughing and sneezing but also needing to dash to the toilet, often leaking urine before they are able to get there.

    Q. Do they need to get up several times at night to go to the toilet?
    A. They may have Nocturia. Nocturia is the need to get up several times a night to urinate and can have many causes. Even when the symptoms are relatively mild, it can still be a challenging condition because it interferes with getting the right amount of sleep at night.

  • Faecal Incontinence

    If bowel incontinence problems have already been diagnosed then you can find out more about specific conditions in the section. If a diagnosis has not yet been made by a healthcare professional, the following questions about the symptoms may give you a better idea of what the problem could be and may help with any future discussions with a Healthcare professional.

    Bowel Problems Q&A: assessing a patient condition

    Again, the most important point to remember is that everyone with incontinence, whether Urinary or Faecal, can be helped and many can be completely cured. Find out what you can do to help care for a loved one or where to get some more help.

    Q. Do they leak faeces without being aware of it?
    A. They may have Bowel or Faecal incontinence. This is an inability to control bowel movements, which means that faeces can leak out uncontrollably. Some people may just pass a small amount when passing wind, whilst others may have a complete loss of bowel control. This can severely affect a person’s quality of life, self-esteem and emotional wellbeing.

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