Incontinence 101

Identifying the type of bladder leakage is the first step to treating it. The sooner it is recognized, the sooner it can be addressed and improve quality of life. There are six basic types of urinary incontinence: stress, overflow, urge, functional, reflex and mixed.


This is the involuntary loss of small amounts of urine during a cough, laugh, sneeze, standing up or when any kind of movement can cause leakage. Common causes: urological procedures, pregnancy/childbirth, loss of muscle tone, prostate surgery, obesity, strenuous physical activities, etc.


When a patient experiences leakage when his or her bladder is full, this is overflow incontinence. Leakage can be dribbling, frequency, urgency and/or bladder distention. Common causes: bladder injuries, nerve damage, any disease that causes urinary tract blockages, etc.


Inability to control urinating once one feels the need to void is called urge incontinence. Patients may feel the need to urinate but cannot wait to get to the bathroom. Common causes:   Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, enlarged prostate, urinary tract infections, hormonal changes, diabetes, etc.


This type of incontinence is due to a functional limitation (i.e., an inzability to move or move around in one’s environment). Common causes: immobility or cognitive impairment.


Reflex incontinence is the frequent loss of urine with no warning. Common causes: spinal cord injuries, brain tumors, stroke and more.


Mixed incontinence refers to a combination of incontinence forms, such as a mix of stress, urge and bowel incontinences.

In addition to the six types of urinary incontinence, bowel or fecal incontinence can be caused by childbirth, surgery, nerve damage, illness and more. There are protective hygiene products to address each type of incontinence, from light to heavy leakage. Addressing incontinence can lead to better control and a higher level of confidence for patients.

Written By:

Joselin Lockard, RRT

Frontier Home Medical Sales Representative

Kearney and Grand Island

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