Incontinence Help And Advice
Urinary incontinence is the unintentional passing of urine. It is a common problem and is thought to affect millions of people worldwide. It is estimated that up to 6 million people in the UK alone experience some degree of urinary incontinence and it can affect both men and women.
The First Step: Talk to Your Doctor
Although you may feel embarrassed to talk about your urinary incontinence, it’s a good idea to see your GP as this can be the first step towards finding an effective way to manage the problem.
Your doctor should ask questions, like how long the leakage has been happening, how bad it is, and how much it impacts on daily life. They may even suggest keeping a diary in which you record how much fluid you drink and how often you have to use the toilet.
Your GP may initially suggest some simple measures to see if they help improve your symptoms such as:
- Pelvic floor exercise (exercising your pelvic floor muscles by squeezing them)
- Lifestyle changes such as reducing your alcohol and/or caffeine consumption
- Bladder training (learning ways to help you wait longer between feeling the need to urinate and passing urine)
Types Of Incontinence
Do you leak urine when you exercise or when lifting heavy objects or when you laugh, cough, or sneeze? You may have Stress Incontinence
Do you experience a sudden need to go to the toilet and/or are unable to reach the toilet in time? You may have Urge Incontinence
Do you go to the toilet more than 7 times a day? This may be Frequency Incontinence
Do you sometimes dribble small amounts of urine without noticing or need to strain to pass urine? You may have Overflow Incontinence
Do you need to get up and use the toilet several times during the night? You may have Nocturia
Do you wet the bed at night? You may have Nocturnal Enuresis
Do you have a physical condition or a mental impairment that makes it difficult for you to reach the bathroom in time? You may have Functional incontinence
If you suffer from a combination of the above symptoms, you may have Mixed Incontinence
Stress incontinence is the most commonly experienced type of incontinence. Usually described as the involuntary loss of small amounts of urine due to weakened or damaged pelvic floor muscles and tissues.
It can happen when extra pressure is exerted on the bladder through exercise, laughing, sneezing, coughing or when lifting heavy objects. Pregnancy and childbirth can stretch and weaken a woman’s pelvic floor muscles due to the strain on the bladder neck muscles. Women of all ages can develop stress incontinence however the symptoms often present themselves around the time of the menopause.
Other things that can lead to stress incontinence are being overweight or obese, taking certain medications or, in men, having prostate surgery.
Urge Incontinence can occur as part of Overactive Bladder Syndrome (OAB). You may experience a sudden intense need to urinate and may not be able to make it to the toilet in time. Large amounts of urine can be expelled unexpectedly, even during sleep.
Causes of overactive bladder include:
- Damage to the bladder’s nerves
- Damage to other parts of the nervous system
- Damage to muscles
Conditions such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, and stroke can affect nerves, leading to urge incontinence. Bladder problems, such as infections and bladder stones, and certain medications can also cause it.
Frequency refers to the number of times you go to the toilet to pass urine in a day. If you need to go to the toilet very often, more than seven times a day, you may have a frequency incontinence.
Frequency incontinence can be caused by an overactive bladder. The bladder might contract even when it doesn’t need to; for example, if your bladder only has a small amount of urine in it, or it may be oversensitive. This means that you feel the need to go to the toilet more often.
It is considered normal to wake once or twice during the night to use the toilet. If you have to do so more often than that it could indicate a temporary or longer term condition is present. The frequent need to pass water during the night is called Nocturia.
Although Nocturia may be associated with ageing, it might be caused by a medical problem which can be treated.
- Excessive fluid intake – particularly caffeine or alcohol
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Prostate diseases
- Urinary tract infections
- Certain medications
Nocturnal Enuresis is the involuntary emptying of the bladder during sleep. Many people wet the bed at night, although most never seek professional help because they are too embarrassed to talk about it. In fact, around one person in every 100 continue to wet the bed into adult life.
Bed wetting causes many practical problems, such as constantly having to change wet sheets and bedding. It can prevent people from staying away overnight, going on holiday or going on business trips. Bed wetting can also affect sleep patterns leading to fatigue.
Nocturnal Enuresis can often be cured with the right advice and support.
Overflow incontinence occurs when the bladder does not empty properly. This results in the bladder ‘overflowing’ and leaking urine.
- Weakened bladder muscles
- Nerve damage from diabetes or other diseases
- Conditions that block the flow of urine, such as tumours, urinary stones or an enlarged prostate
- Certain medications
Bowel or Faecal Incontinence
Bowel incontinence is normally a symptom of an underlying problem. It can be related to constipation, diarrhoea, inflammatory bowel conditions, haemorrhoids, muscle or nerve damage within the bowel due to stroke, diabetes or multiple sclerosis.
Bowel incontinence can be a sign of more serious medical issues and should never be ignored.
Mixed Urinary Incontinence
Mixed continence is usually a combination of both stress and urge incontinence and presents symptoms of both conditions
There are a number of charities and organisations that may be able to offer further advice and support:
This site does not offer medical advice and nothing contained within this site is intended to constitute professional advice for medical diagnosis or treatment