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Urinary incontinence, or poor bladder control, is a common problem. It is often as a result of pregnancy and childbirth, menopause or chronic medical problems such as diabetes, arthritis, Parkinson's disease or asthma.

Poor bladder control can vary in severity from a leak when someone laughs, coughs or exercises or to a complete inability of control.

There are different types of urinary incontinence and many different causes. These include:

  1. Stress incontinence - the leaking of small amounts of urine during activities which increase abdominal pressure causing pressure on the bladder. This is most common in women but sometimes in (often as a result of prostate surgery). Other issues which can cause stress incontinence include diabetes, chronic cough (such as with asthma, smoking or bronchitis), constipation and obesity
  2. Urge incontinence (unstable or overactive bladder, or detrusor instability) - is a sudden and strong need to pass urine. People with this problem may feel their bladder is fuller than it actually is and this causes the bladder to contract when it is not very full. These people cannot hold for long and have a sudden need for the toilet. Some may have leakage before they get to the toilet and many of these people also need to wake several times at night to go to the toilet (nocturia)
  3. Incontinence associated with chronic retention - is when the bladder is unable to completely empty. So these people have frequent leakage of small amounts of urine. Many people with this problem have a feeling that they need to strain to pass urine, a slow weak stream of urine, little or no warning of the need to go to the toilet, bedwetting, frequent bladder infections or 'dribbling' after going to the toilet
  4. Functional incontinence - is when a person does not recognise the need to go to the toilet or even know what the toilet is. Many people with this problem miss getting to the toilet or pass their urine in the wrong place. It can be caused by dementia, poor eyesight, problems getting to the toilet, the inability to get their clothes out of the way when they do toilet, sometimes an unwillingness go to the toilet and problems getting to the toilet because of issues like low chairs, reliance on others to get to the toilet and poor lighting