What is urinary incontinence?

Urinary incontinence is a condition where a person is unable to control his or her bladder, resulting in leaky or involuntary urination. While not a disease in itself, incontinence can be a symptom of an underlying medical condition. There are a few types of urinary incontinence and they can range in severity; from a small leak when you cough, continuous release of urine to total uncontrolled voiding of the bladder. The causes of urinary incontinence are many and varied, including injury, neurological conditions, certain medications, urinary tract infection and old age.

Types of urinary incontinence

  • Stress incontinence is the leaking of a small amount of urine when your bladder is under pressure when you’re doing an activity like running, or when you’re laughing, coughing or sneezing. It is often due to the weakening of the pelvic floor support, medication, or by the intrinsic loss of normal urethral function.
  • Urge incontinence refers to the sudden urge to urinate. It happens when your bladder contracts too early when it is not very full, resulting in a strong need to urinate immediately. It is often assumed that old age, drinking too much alcohol or caffeine, poor fluid intake and conditions affecting the lower urinary tract are among the reasons that may contribute to urge incontinence.
  • Overflow incontinence, aka chronic urinary retention, happens when the bladder is unable to empty properly even when you try, resulting in frequent leakage of small amounts of urine. It can be caused by a urethra blockage, an enlarged prostate, prolapse of pelvic organs which can block the urethra, some damage to the nerves that control the bladder or pelvic floor muscles and some medications. In addition, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, stroke or Parkinson’s disease may also have conditions that can interfere with the sensation of a full balder and the process of emptying a bladder.
  • Total incontinence happens when your bladder can’t store any urine at all which can be caused by a bladder problem from birth, an injury to your spinal cord and a bladder fistula.
  • Functional incontinence happens when an intellectual, physical, environmental issue causes incontinence in a person with normal bladder function. For example, a person wants to go to the toilet, but they can’t express the need, can’t get up, or can’t find the toilet without some help.

Remedies for urinary incontinence

Depending on the cause of the incontinence, there are a number of methods to deal with the condition. Mild cases may be corrected with diet, bladder or pelvic muscle training and adult diapers. More severe instances will require medication, catheters and surgical implants. For the purposes of this article, we will focus on the use of catheters for urinary incontinence.

Which method of catheterisation is right for me?

If your medical condition makes a catheter necessary, it’s important to remember that you do have some control over what catheter you use. Before you decide, you should understand how each type of catheter works:

  • External catheter – Also known as a condom catheter or male catheter, it consists of a sheath made out of PVC, latex or silicone, with an adhesive to attach it to the penis, and the standard tube coming out of the other end, connected to a leg bag. Unlike the other catheter types, nothing is inserted into the urethra for this method, with everything remaining outside of the body. There are some options for female external catheters, but they are uncommon.
  • Intermittent catheter – Intermittent self-catheterisation is a short-term method of catheterisation, where the user inserts a thin tube through the urethra into the bladder. This is performed by the user, as and when needs arise throughout the day with single-use catheters.
  • Indwelling urinary catheter – For longer-term needs, a catheter may be inserted into the bladder through the urethra, with an inflatable balloon at the bladder end to keep the catheter in position. The outside end of the catheter leads either to a collection bag or may have a valve so that urine can be emptied straight into the toilet.
  • Suprapubic catheter – For a permanent solution to bladder problems where an indwelling urinary catheter may not be adequate, a suprapubic catheter may be used. For this method, a tube is surgically passed through the abdominal wall directly into the bladder, without going through the urethra, to be replaced every six to eight weeks.

Risks of urinary tract infection (UTI) from catheter use

With indwelling and suprapubic catheters, there is a risk of infection to the urinary tract. As the tube provides bacteria access to the bladder for extended periods of time, the microbes can multiply and lead to what is called a Catheter-Associated Urinary Tract Infection (CAUTI). Indwelling catheters are a major cause of CAUTIs, highly common infections a person can contract in the hospital. CAUTIs can also happen with suprapubic catheter use. CAUTIs can occur with catheterisation when:

  • The catheter becomes contaminated during insertion
  • The drainage bag is not emptied frequently enough
  • Faecal bacteria gets on the catheter
  • Urine in the catheter bag flows backwards into the bladder
  • The catheter is not regularly cleaned

The effect of CAUTIs can range from inconvenient to life-threatening if left untreated. You can also have issues if the catheter kinks or becomes blocked, which may also lead to infection if not dealt with swiftly.

How UroShield can help patients with urinary incontinence

Managing urinary incontinence with an indwelling catheter often means you also need to manage the risks of CAUTIs, but there is a non-invasive way to reduce the chance of infections with UroShield.

UroShield is a compact external medical device that generates low-frequency, low-intensity ultrasound waves to prevent bacterial biofilm from forming on catheters. The action of the ultrasonic waves run along the full length of the catheter, up into the balloon and down into the bag, both on the outside and inside surfaces of the catheter. The ultrasound gently vibrates the catheter to stop the bacteria from adhering to the catheter and forming the biofilm – preventing infections from developing.

If biofilm is present, UroShield helps to break up the protective layer surrounding the biofilm which is normally impenetrable to antibiotics, allowing antibiotics access to the bacteria and curing the infection. The vibrations also prevent catheter encrustation and blockage, caused by crystalline deposits of mineral salts in the urine. UroShield also helps to reduce catheter-associated bladder spasms and pain, and is effective for both indwelling urinary catheter and suprapubic.

To find out more about how UroShield works and what it can do for you, get in touch on 020 8773 7844 or fill out our Online Form. If you found this article useful, take a look at:

This post is not health advice and should not replace professional advice tailored to your specific circumstances. It is intended to provide information of general interest about current healthcare issues.