What Is Incontinence?

Incontinence is defined as: “An involuntary leakage of urine”
Incontinence is a common problem, but is distressing and can have a profound effect on a person’s quality of life. Incontinence is almost always caused by an underlying medical condition and, contrary to popular misconception that it is something that just has to borne, incontinence is almost always treatable either through exercises, drugs or through the use of medical appliances.

How Common Is It?

Incontinence is a lot more common than most people realise. It is difficult to know exactly how common it is as many people never see a healthcare professional about the issue, but it is estimated that 1 adult in 15 has a bladder problem.

Incontinence is more common in women than in men, due to the impact of childbirth and the menopause on the urinary system, and it is estimated that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 10 men will experience incontinence at some stage of life.

Also, 1 adult in every 100 is a life-long bed-wetter. As you might expect, incontinence is more common as you get older, and with the aging population the market size for incontinence appliances and treatments is growing.

Effects of Incontinence

Incontinence can have a big impact on a person’s quality of life in the following ways:

  • Skin break-down caused by being wet.
  • Expense due to ruined clothes and bedding
  • Restricting leisure, job and education opportunities
  • Initiating a move into nursing or residential care
  • Causing social embarrassment, or restricting social activities due to the fear of finding oneself in an embarrassing situation.
  • Bullying
  • Causing conflict with a carer

What Causes Incontinence?

The following things can cause incontinence:

  • Childbirth
  • Menopause
  • Prostate surgery
  • Pelvic or spinal injury or surgery
  • Neurological disorders, such as Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimer’s and stroke
  • Age
  • Loss of sphincter or pelvic floor muscle tonicity

Forms of Incontinence

The most common forms of incontinence are:

  • Stress incontinence
  • Urge incontinence
  • Overflow incontinence
  • Mixed incontinence: a combination of stress incontinence
  • and urge incontinence

Less common forms of incontinence are:

  • Reflex bladder
  • Structural incontinence
  • Functional incontinence