Department of Health


People with bladder control or bowel problems may find the following plain English definitions of medical and technical terms useful when discussing their condition.

The rate at which an absorbent product can soak up liquid, measured in ml/minute.
Absorbent bed sheet
A sheet capable of absorbing urine.
Absorbent pad
A pad which is capable of absorbing urine. These may be reusable or disposable, bodyworn or placed on furniture. Bodyworn pads are often secured with adhesive strips inside close fitting underwear or are placed in the pocket of specially designed pants.
Absorbent pants
Special pants with built-in absorbent layers.
After dribble
See post micturition dribble.
A large disposable pad secured with adhesive tabs, similar in style to disposable infant nappies.
Anatomically shaped
A pad shaped like an hourglass to fit between the legs more comfortably.
Anal canal
Passageway between the rectum (last part of the bowel) and the outside of the body. Some people say back passage.
Anal plug
A small foam plug inserted into the anus to control faecal leakage.
Anal sphincter
The rings of muscle around the anus that give bowel control.
Anorectal physiological studies
Specialised tests of the nerves and muscles of the rectum and anus.
The opening of the bowel, where faeces pass out.
See Laxative.
Back passage
See anal canal.
Bed pad
Absorbent pad placed on the bed. May be disposable or washable.
The hollow expandable muscular organ of the lower urinary tract. The bladder acts as the reservoir for urine.
Bladder Training
A program where the bladder is trained to increase its capacity and ability to hold on.
A common variety of disposable, absorbent bed sheets backed with blue plastic.
Refers to pads and garments worn close to the body.
Bowel Motion
See faeces.
Bowel movement
See faeces.
Also called stones. Calculi may form in the bladder, ureters, and kidneys.
Capacity (of bladder)
The volume of urine that the bladder can hold.
Capacity (of continence products)
The volume of urine that can be held in an absorbent product or drainage bag. Total capacity refers to the maximum volume that can be held under laboratory conditions and working capacity refers to the volume that can be held during use. Methods of measuring capacity vary between manufacturers.
The carer or care giver is the person (or persons) who provides care for another. The carer may be a relative, friend, personal care attendant, nursing assistant, enrolled or registered nurse.
A narrow flexible tube used to drain urine from the bladder. It can be inserted through the urethra, or through the skin of the abdomen, directly into the bladder.
Catheter valve
A tap connected to the catheter instead of a drainage bag. Urine is stored in the bladder, which is drained at intervals by opening the valve.
This is the passing of a catheter into the bladder (usually via the urethra) to drain the bladder of urine.
Chair pad
Absorbent or washable pad placed on a chair.
Cloudy urine
Non-transparent urine.
The greater part of the large intestines or large bowel which absorbs water from the waste food that your body cannot use, and forms it into faeces.
A portable toilet chair.
Condom catheter
See penile sheath.
Infrequent passing of hard faeces with difficulty or straining.
Continence is the ability to exercise voluntary control over bodily functions of the bladder and bowel.
The surface of a bodyworn pad which is closest to the body.
See faeces.
Inflammation of the bladder. Symptoms include painful and frequent urination.
A test of bladder function.
A procedure where the doctor examines the interior of the bladder using an instrument passed through the urethra. It is usually done under local anaesthetic.
The process of expelling faeces from the body. Some people say - pass a motion, have a poo, pass a stool.
Dependent Continence
Continence that is achieved as a result of assistance by others. This assistance may be physical help or reminders to go to the toilet.
The ability to use the fingers.
See nappy.
Disposable products
Any product designed to be thrown away after a single use. Includes disposable absorbent pads, some catheters and accessories.
A diuretic is a substance which causes an increase in urine production.
Dysuria is the painful or uncomfortable passing of urine.
Liquid medicine inserted into the rectum through the anus to stimulate bowel emptying.
Enuresis is the involuntary loss of urine. When it occurs during sleep at night it is referred to as nocturnal enuresis.
External anal sphincter
The voluntary muscle around the anus that you can squeeze to delay defecation.
External male catheter
See penile sheath.
Faecal Impaction
This occurs when the colon is distended with retained faeces.
Faecal Incontinence
Involuntary loss of solid or liquid faeces.
Bodily waste that passes out of the anus. Some people say bowel motions, bowel movement, stool, poo, shit, crap.
The part of food, which cannot be digested. It adds bulk to the bowel action and assists regularity.
Gas or wind produced in the bowel, mostly as a result of the normal activity of bacteria in the bowel.
A need to pass urine much more often than normal.
Functional incontinence
Where problems getting to the toilet owing to environmental, physical or mental difficulties cause incontinence.
Pertaining to the external sex organs.
Glans penis
The head of the penis.
When blood is present in the urine.
Enlargement of the blood vessels inside the anus. These can become like varicose veins in the anus, and may bleed and cause pain when defecating.
See faecal impaction.
Involuntary loss of urine or faeces which may result in problems with hygiene or with participation in everyday life.
Indwelling Catheterisation
A catheter is placed into the bladder. After the catheter is in the bladder, a small balloon is inflated which allows the catheter to be held inside the bladder neck. The catheter can be left for several weeks but frequency of changing will vary according to individual needs.
Insert Booster
A pad with no plastic backing used to boost the volume capacity of another pad when inserted inside the larger pad.
Intermittent Catheterisation
A catheter is passed into the bladder and withdrawn a number of times per day, or as often as is required, to drain urine.
Internal anal sphincter
Inner ring of muscle around the anal canal. This muscle works automatically to keep the anus closed at all times except when you need to pass faeces.
Kegel exercises
See pelvic floor exercise.
Bean-shaped organs of the renal system. Urine forms in the kidneys and travels through the ureters to the bladder.
The female external genital area.
Natural rubber material: Many catheters and penile sheaths are made of soft latex. Some people are allergic to latex.
Medicine to treat constipation.
Leg bags
Bags worn strapped to the leg to store urine drained from the bladder by means of a catheter or penile sheath.
Link System
A system of connecting urinary drainage bags designed to prevent the introduction of infection. A leg bag is worn during the day with a larger capacity bag connected to the drainage outlet of the leg bag at night.
Water based gel used to lubricate suppositories and catheters to prevent pain and trauma on insertion.
Male pouch
Small bodyworn pad which encloses the penis and sometimes also the scrotum. May be reusable or disposable, suitable for men with mild urinary incontinence.
See Microscopy Culture and Sensitivity.
Menopause occurs when there is cessation of menstruation in the female.
Microscopy Culture and Sensitivity
A microscopic test of urine to see whether any organisms are present and, if so, identify which antibiotics would be suitable for treatment to eradicate the organism.
The act of urinating (voiding, or passing urine).
Mild urinary incontinence
Small amount of urine loss which makes underpants damp and sometimes wets outside clothing.
Mixed incontinence
A common situation where a number of different types of incontinence are present at the same time.
Moderate urinary incontinence
Medium amount of urine loss which wets through to outside clothing.
A mid stream urine or middle part of the stream is collected when an MCS (Microscopy Culture and Sensitivity test) is required. The initial part of the stream can help to flush away any organisms present around the urethral meatus (opening).
Absorbent garment for infants. Modified versions for adults are known as all-in-ones.
Net Pants
Net pants are designed to hold disposable pads close to the body to minimise leakages.
Night Bags
A larger capacity drainage bag used with a catheter or penile sheath to store urine at night.
Nocturia is the frequent passing of urine during the night.
Overflow Incontinence
Overflow incontinence occurs when the bladder is unable to empty either because of an outlet obstruction or reduced ability of the bladder to contract. The bladder remains full and small amounts of urine are lost frequently.
Pelvic Floor
The pelvic floor consist of a group of muscles which are attached to the bony prominences of the pelvis and provide support for the pelvic organs, including the bladder and bowel. The muscles help to support the bladder, and with the external sphincter can control the flow of urine. The urethra passes through the front of the pelvic floor with the rectum passing through the back. Weakness of the pelvic floor is often associated with stress incontinence.
Pelvic Floor Exercises
Exercises which involve contraction and relaxation of the pelvic floor muscles. They are aimed at strengthening the muscles and enabling increased urethral closure pressure.
Penile sheath
A sheath for the penis, similar to a condom. It is attached to a tube and bag which collects urine as it drains away. Also called external male catheter or condom catheter.
Part of the urinary and reproductive systems of the male. Contains the male urethra and urinary meatus (opening).
The region of the body extending from the anus to the scrotum in males, and from the anus to the vulva in females.
See haemorrhoids.
See urine.
See urine.
See faeces.
Poor urine stream
When urine flows out only at a slow rate.
Post Micturition Dribble
After urine has been passed there may be a small amount of urine that dribbles or spurts from the penis. This is the result of a small amount of urine which has remained in the urethra after urination. It can be milked through urethral massage or resolved through pelvic muscle exercises. Women may experience post micturition dribble, although it is not common, occurring more frequently in men.
When one of the pelvic organs (particularly the uterus) descends abnormally. The cervix may then be positioned near the opening to the vagina, or actually be pushed through it to the outside. Abnormal descent of the bladder into the vagina is called a cystocoele and that of the rectum is called a rectocoele.
Prompted Voiding
Bladder emptying in response to a reminder or suggestion by a carer.
A gland in men, which is located at the base of the bladder and surrounds the urethra. It produces a fluid at ejaculation. Sometimes in older men, the gland grows larger and obstructs the urine tube. A symptom of this is a poor stream of urine.
Absorbent pants with an elasticised waist, designed to be pulled on like normal underwear.
Pulp Filling
Wood fibre is finely pulped and sometimes fluffed. It is used in disposable products to absorb urine.
The lowest part of the bowel where faeces are held until defecation. Some people say back passage.
Residual Urine
Residual urine refers to the volume of urine remaining in the bladder immediately following the passing of urine.
Retention (of urine)
A term used to describe the failure of the bladder to empty completely.
Retracted penis
A condition in which most of the (non-erect) penis is inside the body with only the tip showing. Penile sheaths and male absorbent pouches may not be suitable for men with retracted penis. However, there are specially designed penile sheaths for a retracted penis.
Reusable products
Any product designed to be washed and reused many times. These include reusable pads and pants, some catheter accessories, urinals.
See Super Absorbent Substance.
See specific gravity.
Part of the external sex organs of the male, the sack which contains the testicles.
Particles floating in urine may be mucus, pus or blood. The urine appears cloudy, smoky or clear with flecks.
Severe urinary incontinence
Large amount of urine loss which saturates clothing through to bed, chair or floor.
See faeces.
A material sometimes used in making catheters and penile sheaths. Useful for people with latex allergy.
Social Continence
Social continence occurs when bladder and bowel contents cannot be contained except through the use of aids and appliances. With appropriate use of these, the incontinent person may socialise with confidence that there will be containment of any involuntary loss of urine or faeces.
Specific Gravity
A measure of the density of urine.
A sample (eg of urine).
Stay-dry Surface
The surface of the pad closest to the body stays dry to touch. This prevents urine wick-back and skin soreness.
The absence of infection.
Sterile Procedure
A procedure used to minimise the risk of infection.
A hole made surgically through the abdominal wall into the bowel or bladder for the purpose of drainage of urine or faeces.
See faeces.
Stress Incontinence
Involuntary loss of urine when you cough, sneeze, laugh or jump or any activity that causes a sudden rise in pressure inside the abdomen.
Supra pubic catheterisation
Surgical insertion of a catheter into the bladder through the abdominal wall.
Super absorbent substance
This substance consists of sand-like granules, which can absorb fifty times their size in water or urine.
A medication administered into the rectum to lubricate or stimulate a bowel action.
Total capacity
The total volume of urine that a pad can absorb under laboratory conditions.
See urinary tract infection.
Tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder.
The tube which carries urine from the bladder to the outside.
The need to find a toilet in a hurry.
Urge Incontinence
A sudden and strong desire to empty the bladder followed almost immediately by an involuntary loss of urine.
See penile sheath.
A portable receptacle for urine usually made of plastic or metal. Versions for men and women are available.
See urine analysis.
Urinary Flow Rate
The rate at which the urine is expelled from the bladder. It is usually measured in millilitres per second.
Urinary Incontinence
Urinary incontinence occurs when there is an involuntary loss of urine.
Urinary meatus
Exterior opening of the urethra. The urinary meatus is located at the tip of the penis in men and in front of the vaginal opening in women.
Urinary Tract Infection
A urinary tract infection exists when there is a growth of organisms in the urine, detected on pathology testing. The usual signs and symptoms include frequency, urgency and dysuria.
The process of expelling urine from the bladder. Some people say - pass water, go to the loo, have a pee, spend a penny.
Liquid waste from the body that is stored in the bladder. Some people say - wee, pee, piss.
Urine Analysis
An analysis of a sample of urine either with a dipstick or in a laboratory. Urine is usually analysed for acidity/ alkalinity, glucose, blood, protein, ketones, nitrates and leucocytes.
Tests of bladder and urethral function to help find out the reason for incontinence.
See urinary tract infection.
Also known as the birth canal. The vagina is a collapsible tube of smooth muscle with its opening located between the urinary meatus and anus in women.
To pass urine.
The external female genital organs.
See urine.
Urine soaks back to the surface of the pad and stays wet against the skin. It is a contributing factor to skin soreness.
Working Capacity
The volume of urine that a pad holds when being worn by somebody.

This information is adapted from material developed for the Australian Government by Flinders Consulting Pty Ltd. Original authors were Sandra Dunn, Jan Paterson, Inge Kowanko, Rae Winter, Leigh Pretty, Rosalie Donhardt and Irene Stein.