Incontinence is the term used to describe any accidental or involuntary loss of urine from the bladder (urinary incontinence) or bowel motion, faeces or wind from the bowel (faecal or bowel incontinence).
Incontinence is a widespread condition that ranges in severity from “just a small leak” to complete loss of bladder or bowel control.
One in three women who’ve had a baby experience loss of bladder control. One in six women who haven’t had children are affected by incontinence. 50 per cent of women with urinary incontinence are under 50 years old – it doesn’t just affect the elderly.
One in 20 Australian adults experience bladder and/or bowel control problems.
4.8 million Australians are affected by incontinence – making it one of the biggest health challenges affecting Australians.
Incontinence is not a normal part of aging, it can be treated, and you don’t have to put up with it.
Incontinence Needs Medical Care
Incontinence is really a symptom of bladder or bowel dysfunction. Your body is telling you that something is not quite right. Often, pelvic floor muscle weakness contributes to the symptoms. But other medical issues can also lead to loss of control. By seeking help, incontinence can be treated and managed. In many cases it can also be cured.
Types of Urinary Incontinence
Stress incontinence is leakage of small amounts of urine with exertion. It can be related to childbirth, being overweight and prostate surgery.
Urge incontinence is leakage following a sudden urge to urinate. While the cause is often unknown, it may be the result of stroke, enlarged prostate gland or Parkinson’s disease.
Overflow incontinence is leakage because the bladder does not empty properly and overfills. Causes include multiple sclerosis, an enlarged prostate gland and diabetes.
Functional incontinence is leakage of urine because a person was unable to get to or use the toilet due to a physical disability, a barrier in their environment or because of an intellectual or memory problem. This is common in people with dementia and poor mobility.
Keep Your Bladder and Bowel Healthy
Healthy Lifestyle Choices to Avoid Continence Problems
Drink plenty of water – try for two litres each day (unless your doctor advises you otherwise).
Eat well – a healthy diet will prevent constipation – so eat more fresh foods and less processed foods (at least two pieces of fruit and five serves of vegetables every day). Move your body – at least 30 minutes of exercise every day will keep you fit
and prevent constipation. Keep your pelvic floor strong with pelvic floor exercises for good control of your bladder and bowel.
Practise good toilet habits to prevent bladder and bowel control problems.
Toileting Tips – Listen to Your Body
To prevent incontinence, make sure you:
Only go to the toilet to pass urine when you have the urge to go – don’t go “just in case”
Don’t delay going to the toilet when you have the urge to clear your bowels.
Take the time to completely empty your bladder and bowel.
Use the correct posture on the toilet to help you pass a bowel motion.
Although incontinence has a big impact on quality of life, many people do not seek help. It’s easy to feel embarrassed to talk about your bladder and bowel problems.
But there is no need to be. The good news is that for most people, these problems can either be cured or at least better managed. You can lead a normal life without needing to plan your activities around the toilet.
Remember it’s more common than you think – so don’t be shy, ask your doctor for help. Incontinence can be treated, better managed and sometimes even cured.