Incontinence is the involuntary loss of bladder or bowel control. People with incontinence shouldn’t feel embarrassed or alone. It affects approximately 4.8 million Australians of all ages1.
Continence is the ability to exercise voluntary control over natural impulses such as the urge to urinate or defecate.
Incontinence is the involuntary loss of bladder or bowel control. Continence is the ability to exercise voluntary control over natural impulses such as the urge to urinate or defecate. Incontinence is any involuntary loss of urine or faeces. It doesn’t have to mean total lack of control – it might only be at times, when urine dribbles or there’s a bit of soiling or leaking. Faecal incontinence may include loss of wind and faecal smearing.
Incontinence can affect a person emotionally, psychologically and socially. Those facing it may feel that they’re seen as lazy or attention seeking, feel ashamed, embarrassed, annoyed, angry, frustrated or guilty. If not well managed incontinence can lead to social isolation and skin complaints.
It is not a disease, or an inevitable part of ageing or something that should be accepted after childbirth. Incontinence is a physical condition and is always a symptom or side effect of another medical condition
Once the cause is understood it can often be cured, and it can always be managed. That’s why it’s important to be proactive and manage it well. Don’t passively accept it. Your doctor or a continence nurse advisor can help – and remember, they help with these issues regularly so there’s no need to feel embarrassed.
Who is at risk?
1 in 3 women and 1 in 10 men over 35 are affected by incontinence in Australia2. It has no boundary of ethnicity, sex, age or social class.
Women are more likely to be affected than men. In older age groups, incontinence tends to be both more common and more severe, occurring in up to 40% of people over 75 years of age.
Bedwetting is also common in children and teenagers leading to a great deal of embarrassment and stress for the child and their family.
Your doctor or a continence nurse advisor can help identify which type of incontinence you’re facing and this will influence treatment.
How do you know ?
If you are not sure whether you have a problem, ask the following questions. If you answer yes to any of these it’s important to take action now.
- Do you sometimes feel you have not completely emptied your bladder?
- Do you have to rush to use the toilet?
- Are you frequently nervous because you think you might lose control of your bladder or bowel?
- Do you wake up twice or more during the night to go to the toilet?
- Do you sometimes leak before you get to the toilet?
- Do you sometimes leak when you lift something heavy?
- Do you sometimes leak when you exercise or play sport?
- Do you sometimes leak when you change from a seated or lying position to a standing position?
- Do you strain to empty to bowel?
- Do you sometimes soil your underwear?
- Do you plan your daily routine around where the nearest toilet is?
Health professionals are well qualified to assess incontinence and offer numerous treatment options including bladder training, muscle
Strengthening exercises, dietary modification, medication or surgery. Today, clinics and treatment centres throughout the nation are helping people to manage and treat incontinence. Increased awareness has helped promote a greater understanding of incontinence in today’s society. People with incontinence lead full, active lives doing the same things they have enjoyed for years.
1- Continence Foundation of Australia
2- IPSOS (2010) U&A and ABS