Incontinence is a condition that can affect men and women at any age. It is very common, with approximately 1 in 4 Australians being incontinent. It is a term that is used to describe any involuntary or accidental loss of urine (urinary incontinence) or the bowel (faecal incontinence). Symptoms can range in severity from small leaks through to complete loss of bowel or bladder control. Unfortunately, embarrassment often prevents people from getting the right advice and treatment. However, with the correct management, most problems can be improved, better managed and in many cases cured.
What is urinary incontinence?
Urinary incontinence is an unwanted leakage of urine and happens because of problems with the muscles and nerves that help the bladder hold and release urine. There are different types of urinary incontinence. Stress incontinence can happen when you cough or sneeze or put pressure on the bladder. Overactive bladder means you’ll leak urine when you feel a strong urge to go. Overflow incontinence is more common in men and occurs when you don’t fully empty your bladder and may leak or dribble urine when your bladder is full. Some people may have mixed incontinence symptoms and/or functional incontinence when you can’t get to the toilet on time because of physical issues, like arthritis or mobility problems.
Some common medical conditions can be associated with bladder and bowel problems. These can include: diabetes, obesity, constipation, Parkinson’s disease, strokes, poor mobility due to any cause, multiple myeloma, enlarged prostate to name just a few.
How to get treatment for incontinence?
Discussing the topic with a trusted health practitioner is a good starting point. Bring the topic up with your doctor if you aren’t asked about it. There are many other health professionals who can help too. These include specialist nurses, called continence nurse advisors, specialist physiotherapists, urologists, urogynaecologists. Seeking a referral to these practitioners will be of benefit.
What is the best treatment for incontinence?
After your assessment and a diagnosis with your health professional, you may embark on a treatment program which will be multifactorial. This may include:
- Pelvic floor exercises.
- Learning about good toilet habits.
- Managing medical conditions associated with continence issues.
- Good diet.
- Managing fluid levels including plenty of water and reducing the amount of alcohol and fizzy drinks.
While you are getting on top of the continence problems you might need to use some continence aids. These can be very useful in ensuring you feel safe especially when you are out and about. Ask your health professional about the right kind of aid for you.
Getting help for incontinence in many cases is life changing. When left untreated many people find that avoid or in severe cases doing many things they enjoy, like exercising and playing sport, going out socially, curtailing your activities with the grandchildren and others.
We’d love to hear your thoughts on how you manage your incontinence. Feel free to reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Learn more about incontinence in Episode 19 of The Better Ageing Podcast:
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