What is incontinence?
Incontinence is a common condition that ranges in severity from ‘a small or occasional leak’, to complete loss of bladder or bowel control. It can occur at any age but is more likely to develop as you get older. Unfortunately, people often believe that incontinence is a normal part of ageing or that it can't be treated. But in many cases it can be successfully treated or at least significantly improved.
Incontinence is commonly associated with:
- Accidentally leaking urine when you exercise, laugh, cough or sneeze
- Needing to get to the toilet in a hurry or not making it there in time
- Constantly needing to go to the toilet
- Finding it difficult to empty your bladder or bowel
- Accidentally losing control of your bladder or bowel
- Accidentally passing wind
- A prolapse
- In women, this may be felt as a bulge in the vagina or a feeling of heaviness, discomfort, pulling, dragging or dropping
- In men, this may be felt as a bulge in the rectum or a feeling of needing to use their bowels but not actually needing to go
- Pain in your pelvic area
- Painful sex
Urinary incontinence is often a result of a weak or stretched pelvic floor muscle. This muscle is designed to assist in supporting the abdominal and pelvic organs, help control bladder and bowel, provide support for the baby during pregnancy, and assist in the birthing process. It also works with the abdominal and back muscles to stabilize and support the spine. In men, it is important for erectile function and ejaculation.
Urinary incontinence can often be improved and many cases cured. The treatment is differently depending on the type and cause. Pelvic floor exercises are seen as the most effective way to prevent issues with incontinence. However, 1 in 3 women trying to perform pelvic floor exercises either don't know how or are unable to voluntarily exercise their pelvic floor muscle themselves and require assistance.
Risk factors most commonly linked with urinary incontinence include:
- Pregnancy (both pre and post-natal women)
- Urinary tract infections
- Specific types of surgery such as prostatectomy (removal of all or part of the prostate) and hysterectomy (removal of all or part of the uterus and/or ovaries)
- Reduced mobility preventing you from getting to or using the toilet
- Neurological and musculoskeletal conditions such as multiple sclerosis and arthritis
- Health conditions such as diabetes, stroke, heart conditions, respiratory conditions, and prostate problems, and
- Some medications
There are different types of incontinence with a number of possible causes. The following are the most common:
STRESS INCONTINENCE - occurs during activities that increase abdominal pressure such as coughing, sneezing, laughing, lifting heavy objects, or during physical activity.
It is the most common form of urinary incontinence and affects about 85-90% women suffering from incontinence.
URGE INCONTINENCE - occurs when the need to urinate comes on so quickly that you might fail to make it to the bathroom in time. Also known as an Overactive Bladder.
It can affect anyone at any age, but it appears to be more prevalent in the elderly
MIXED - a combination of both Stress and Urge Incontinence