Types of Incontinence


The first step towards successful management of incontinence
is identification of your type of incontinence.


We recommend that you see a medical professional to do this.  Your doctor, continence Australia or our registered nurse are all a good place to start

If incontinence has you or someone you know feeling isolated, remember that 4.8 million Australian men and women are affected by incontinence, and one does not have to be alone.  

Incontinence may be related to another health condition and by successfully identifying which type of incontinence you have, your GP may recommend a number of treatment and management options.  In many cases this may simply be a change of diet and lifestyle habits.



Urinary incontinence affects up to
13% of Australian men and
up to 37% of Australian women

(Australian Institute of Health and Welfare Report, 2006 -  continence.org.au)

Urinary incontinence can be caused by many things, but can be treated, better managed and in many cases cured.

Poor bladder control can range from the occasional leak when you laugh, cough or exercise to the complete inability to control your bladder, which may cause you to completely wet yourself. 

Other symptoms you may experience include the constant need to urgently or frequently visit the toilet, associated with 'accidents'.

There are different types of incontinence with a number of possible causes. The following are the most common and some people may experience more than one at any given time.  Women commonly experiencing a mix of stress and urge incontinence.






The most common cause of incontinence occurs when an outside force, such as a laugh, cough, sneeze, or exercise, puts extra pressure on your bladder. This is due to weakened pelvic floor muscles and tissue, leading to uncontrollable leakage of urine. Pelvic floor exercises, for women or men, can help reduce the occurrence of stress incontinence.

Stress incontinence in women is often caused by pregnancy, childbirth and menopause. Men may develop stress incontinence after prostate surgery.



Functional incontinence occurs, not from any bladder problems, but a physical inability either recognise the need to go to the toilet, remember where it is or be able to actually get to the bathroom without assistance.

This can be caused by many things such as dementia and poor mobility.



 Generally, most people feel the need to go to the bathroom when the bladder becomes about half full and the bladder slowly stretches.  They are able to then go to the bathroom at a convenient time.  

Urge incontinence occurs when the bladder feels fuller than it really is and contracts.causing a sudden urge to go to the bathroom.  This can make one need to go quickly to the bathroom and perhaps even leak some urine before getting there.

A common sign of urge incontinene is feeling the need to frequently go to the bathroom and you may do so several times during the night.

Its cause is not fully understood but  tends to be more common as we get older and can be made worse by factors such as stress, alcohol, caffeine and fizzy drinks.




There are three main types of Nocturia, or the need to go to the toilet during the night.

Affecting both men and women is is more prominant as we age,  According bladderandbowel.gov.au "by the  time we reach 80 years of age, more than 50 percent of us will wake to go to the toilet at least twice a night."

  • Diurnal Polyuria - is more frequent visits to the toilet during both day and night
  • Nocturnal Polyuria - is when you produce excessive amounts of urine overnight (up to a third of your daily load)
  • Reduced Bladder Capacity - is when your bladder shrinks and cannot hold all your urine.



Overflow occurs when the body has difficulty passing urine, causing the bladder to remain full, resulting in frequent small amounts of leakage.

 Signs of overflow incontinence and your bladder not properly emptying may include:

  • feeling that you need to strain to pass urine
  • a weak or slow urine stream
  • feeling as if your bladder is not empty just after going to the toilet
  • little or no warning when you need to pass urine
  • frequent urinary tract infections or cystitis, and

There are a number of possible causes of overflow incontinence including a uretha blockage, a prolapse of pelvic organs, enlarged prostates, some medications and diabetics.



Faecal incontinence affects up to
20% of Australian men and
up to 12.9% of Australian women

(Australian Institute of Health and Welfare Report, 2006 -  continence.org.au)

Bowel incontinence (or faecal incontinence) is loss of bowel control.

Among other things, it can be caused by pregnancy, regular heavy lifting or straining, and even just getting older. A number of health conditions, such as diarrhoea, constipation or damaged sphinter muscles as well as medicines taken for unrelated problems may also cause or make the condition worse.

Signs of a problem, that you should speak to your doctor about may include:

  • Changes to your normal bowel habits
  • Regular bowel mishaps
  • Dark or black bowel motions.
  • Any pain or bleeding