A woman who has to go to the bathroom

Different Types of Incontinence

Every year, many people suffer from the debilitating symptoms of incontinence. Incontinence is the loss urinary bladder or rectal control, which results in the involuntary release of urine or feces. Incontinence is often a symptom of an underlying illness or medical condition, rather than necessarily being an illness on its own.


Incontinence can appear in many different forms, and these include urinary incontinence and fecal incontinence. Urinary incontinence occurs when individuals lose control of their bladder or bladder control muscles. Fecal incontinence occurs when individuals lose control of their rectal sphincter muscles.

Within these two large categories of incontinence, there are many other variations. These include:

Overflow Incontinence: Overflow incontinence can occur in both males and females. While this condition can be caused by several factors, it is often brought on by obstructions in the bladder.

Stress Incontinence: Stress incontinence occurs when individuals suffering from this condition release feces or urine when exerting muscular effort or strain. Activities that can cause this type of incontinence include bending, lifting heavy objects, straining, and even coughing.

Urge Incontinence: Individuals who suffer from urge incontinence often get sudden and overwhelming urges to use the bathroom. In many cases, this urge can be so strong that sufferers of urge incontinence may lose control of rectal or bladder functions.

Functional Incontinence: This type of incontinence can be brought about by external trauma and is often temporary in nature.

Mixed Incontinence: In some cases, individuals may suffer from more than one type of incontinence at the same time. When this situation occurs, it can be characterized as mixed incontinence.

Common Causes of Incontinence

Given the many different types of incontinence that exist, there are also many causes for the various types of this condition.

Incontinence that is acute or temporary may occur because of sudden changes in medication or diet. In addition, some types of trauma can contribute to short-term occurrences of incontinence. Such traumas can include pregnancy and childbirth.

Other types of incontinence last longer and are chronic in nature. In many cases, chronic incontinence is related to age and the aging process. Over time, supporting muscles and structures may weaken or become damaged which may make them more prone to failure.

Other causes of chronic incontinence include complications related to surgical procedures. Alternatively, in some cases internal obstructions may cause ongoing incontinence. For example, kidney stones or other obstructions of the urethra can cause urological issues.

In addition to obstructions, neurological issues can also cause incontinence to appear. For example, lesions that develop on various parts of the nervous system may cause loss of bowel or bladder control. Another common cause of chronic incontinence for men includes the gradual growth or deterioration of the prostate gland. Prostate related diseases may take a toll on many men as they reach middle and mature ages.

Treatment Options

While there is no doubt that incontinence is a widespread and potentially debilitating issue, there are now many medical interventions available to those suffering from this ailment. Non-invasive and semi-invasive methods are both available.

For non-invasive treatments, some physicians prescribe special exercises for their patients. Some of these exercises include Kegels and pelvic floor exercises such as supine hip rolls. In addition to specialized exercises, some physicians also employ biofeedback devices to help their patients learn how to better control affected regions.

In other cases, partially invasive treatments are required. These include sacral nerve stimulation and electrical continence aids. Sacral nerve stimulation involves therapy or implants that simulate portions of the sacral nerve. This form of therapy has proven valuable in the mitigation of urge incontinence.

Electrical continence aids are special devices that help some sufferers of fecal incontinence live normal lives. These special devices fit snugly into the rectum and electrically innervate surrounding muscles. This action serves to hold the devices in place and allows users to move normally.

Whether patients may suffer from chronic or short-term incontinence, current and future treatments promise to provide them with relief and increased freedom.