What Is Incontinence?

What Is Incontinence? Types and How To Manage It

If you live in America, chances are you know someone who experiences incontinence. More than 13 million Americans experience it, including almost half of women over age 55. So what exactly is incontinence, and how can it be managed?


What Is Incontinence?

Incontinence is the involuntary release or loss of urine or feces. There are two basic categories: 

  • Urinary incontinence (also called bladder leakage) is the accidental loss of urine. It’s the most common type, especially among women.
  • Fecal incontinence is the accidental loss of a bowel movement. People who experience fecal incontinence often experience urinary incontinence as well.

Lots of things can cause incontinence, such as weakened muscles, nerve issues, and cognitive disorders.


Types of Urinary Incontinence

There are four basic types of urinary incontinence:

Stress Incontinence occurs when the pelvic and sphincter muscle weaken, making it difficult to contain urine. 

Urge Incontinence occurs when there’s a quick, sudden urge to use the bathroom that’s followed by leakage.

Overflow Incontinence occurs when the bladder does not empty properly, causing it to overflow and leak urine.

Functional Incontinence occurs when another medical or physical condition prevents an individual from reaching a bathroom in time. 

Managing Incontinence With Absorbent Supplies

Absorbent incontinence supplies are discreet products that absorb urine and stool. They’re filled with a special polymer that pulls leakage away from the skin, keeping it clean and dry. Incontinence products are very thin and can be worn under clothing without notice.

There are three basic types of incontinence products: 

Each one is designed to handle different types of leakage. To learn more, read this article about types of incontinence products.

Affording Incontinence Supplies

Incontinence supplies can be expensive, costing as much as $900-$4,000 per year. Here are some ways to help reduce the cost while getting the supplies you need.  


Many people don’t realize it, but most Medicaid plans cover incontinence supplies.If you have Medicaid,  you may be eligible to receive monthly supplies delivered  and covered by your benefits.

Each state has its own requirements and coverage. To learn more about your state’s coverage, visit our Medicaid Coverage of Incontinence Supplies Guide.

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Diaper Banks

Diaper banks provide incontinence supplies to people who can’t afford them. The supplies are usually donated, which means that the same products may not always be available.

To find a diaper bank near you, visit this diaper bank directory

For more ways to afford incontinence supplies, read our guide to incontinence supplies for lower incomes.



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