This FAQ is intended as a guide to commonly asked questions. Please always consult your healthcare professional regarding urinary problems.
What is incontinence?
Urinary incontinence is the medical term for being unable to control the release of urine.
What is neurogenic bladder?
Neurogenic bladder refers to a condition where neurological damage has led to bladder dysfunction.
What are the signs and symptoms of urinary incontinence?
Some typical signs and symptoms include:
- Involuntary leakage of urine without warning or without feeling the need to go to the toilet
- Involuntary leakage of urine when sneezing, coughing, laughing or exercising
- A sudden urge to rush to the toilet either before or when leaking urine
- The need to get up to pass urine two or more times a night (nocturia)
What causes incontinence?
Potential causes include:
- Damage or weakness to the muscles in the pelvic floor (most commonly due to pregnancy and childbirth)
- Problems with the control of the bladder muscle (bladder overactivity and bladder underactivity)
- Neurogenic conditions that affect the voluntary release of urine (e.g. spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis or spina bifida)
- Enlarged prostate gland
- Urinary tract infection
- Type 2 diabetes
Is incontinence a natural part of aging?
Although incontinence becomes more common with advancing age, it is not just older people who are affected. Effective solutions are available, so it should not stop you from living a full and active life, whatever your age.
Can I still have a social life with incontinence?
It is possible to manage incontinence effectively. A doctor or nurse should be able to help find a solution that makes it possible to continue a social life and everyday activities.
Can incontinence be treated?
Most types of incontinence can be treated or improved through lifestyle changes, pelvic floor exercises, bladder training, medication or surgery. If a cure is not possible,or a temporary solution is required, products such as catheters, urisheaths (for men) or absorbent products can be very helpful.
What is a catheter?
A catheter can be used to ensure the bladder is completely emptied. It is a slim, flexible tube that is inserted into the bladder through the urethra enabling the urine to drain.
Why is it important to empty my bladder?
If your bladder is not emptied regularly, it can cause urinary tract infections. These start in the bladder but can move back to the kidneys and cause serious renal damage. Even small amounts of urine left in the bladder can cause infections.
Can I drink less so that I do not have to empty my bladder so often?
No. It is very important that you drink enough to keep the urinary system healthy. An adult should drink approximately 1500 ml per day and take in a total of about 3 litres including liquids in the daily diet.
How can I tell if I have an urinary tract infection?
Symptoms of a urinary tract infection vary and may be subtle. They include:
- Dark-coloured and strong-smelling urine
- Blood in the urine
- Cloudy urine
- Bladder spasms
- Increased muscle contractions in your leg
If you have any of the above symptoms, talk to your doctor or nurse.
What if I get frequent urinary tract infections?
Using an intermittent catheter increases the risk of urinary tract infections. However, compared to other catheter types such as permanent (indwelling) catheters, intermittent catheters are less likely to cause urinary tract infections.
How can I prevent catheter related urinary tract infections?
There are ways to reduce the risk of urinary tract infections from catheters:
- Ensure you have clean hands and equipment when catheterising
- Drink sufficient amount of fluid during the day to wash out the urinary tract
- Make sure that the bladder is fully emptied every time you catheterise
- Speak to your healthcare professional about your catheterisation frequency and technique
Find out more
View a guide of how to catheterise