The effectiveness of incontinence pads and pants could soon be improved, thanks to the development of a super-absorbent material.
Created by UK-based Technical Absorbents, Super Absorbent Fibre (SAF) is a white, odourless material that can be used to produce a range of different fabrics.
It benefits from very high rates of saline and water uptake and can be used to create a range of levels of absorbency to suit the requirements of people with varying levels of adult incontinence.
According to its manufacturer, SAF received high levels of interest at a recent exhibition on disposable hygiene products in China, including from companies involved in the production of adult incontinence products.
David Hill, business development manager for Technical Absorbents, said: “It was interesting to see the great deal of new development activity within the Chinese hygiene industry, driven by the increasing awareness of untapped market opportunity arising from advanced product innovation.
“Use of SAF is being recognised as a truly viable way to achieve such innovation, based on absorbent cores with softer, lighter and improved absorbent uniformity.”
A new study has revealed that urinary incontinence is common among people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD) – a collection of lung diseases including chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
About two million people in the UK are thought to be living with COPD and research in the Journal of Clinical Nursing suggests that many of these may rely on incontinence pads or pants.
Researchers from Orebro University in Sweden analysed 391 women and 337 men, aged 50 to 75 years, with COPD.
Participants completed questionnaires which asked about their experiences of adult incontinence.
The results revealed that 49.6 per cent of women and 30.3 per cent of men with COPD were affected by adult incontinence.
A high body mass index (BMI) was associated with an increased risk of incontinence and women in particular were most likely to have sought help for the condition.
The study authors concluded: “The present results indicate that urinary incontinence should be included in care plans for patients living with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
“In addition, the results imply that nurses and physicians working in primary health care should ask patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease about urinary incontinence and then offer appropriate assessment and management of it.”
A woman whose urinary incontinence became so serious that she could no longer go for a 20-minute walk without needing the bathroom has revealed how she took control of her condition.
Canadian Lynn Lawson told the Vancouver Sun that she suffered from both urge and stress incontinence and carried spare incontinence pads in her handbag at all times.
But after visiting her doctor and being referred to a specialist clinic, she learned a number of tools that have helped her to manage her incontinence.
Ms Lawson revealed that she learned exercises to strengthen her bladder and pelvic floor muscles and discovered which foods were aggravating the condition.
“Coffee was definitely it for me,” she told the news provider. “I would drink three cups of coffee in the morning and have two cups of tea in afternoon. I have cut coffee almost out completely.”
After visiting the clinic on a regular basis for three months, Ms Lawson no longer relies on incontinence pads when she leaves the house.
She revealed: “For the first time last week I actually went for a walk for an hour and a half and I felt absolutely nothing, which was unbelievable.”
GPs may recommend a number of other lifestyle changes to reduce female incontinence, such as drinking six to eight glasses of water per day and maintaining a healthy weight.
Men with bladder weakness should consider keeping a supply of male incontinence products at hand, it has been claimed.
Dr Hilary Jones, Daybreak health editor, told the Daily Telegraph that people of all ages – including one in nine men – experience some form of bladder weakness and advised those affected by the condition to “above all be prepared”. The expert revealed that incontinence supplies company Tena produces absorbent pads that are specially designed for male incontinence.
He explained: “There are two Tena Men products specifically engineered for men with mild to moderate bladder weakness - level one provides light protection for men who only lose small drops of urine, while level two provides greater absorption.
“The anatomical design ensures that Tena Men pads are discreet and comfortable, while the absorbent granules quickly absorb liquid to ensure you feel fresh and dry.”
Dr Jones also emphasised the importance of maintaining a normal level of fluid intake, as cutting back can make the urine more concentrated and make the bladder more active.
People with urinary incontinence are also advised to reduce their caffeine intake and achieve a healthy weight.
Women who experience urinary incontinence should not be afraid of taking regular exercise, according to manufacturer Kimberley Clark.
In an article on the Star Online website, the company points out that certain exercises can aggravate light urinary leakage, so women need to ensure they select the right type.
For instance, exercises that involve heavy lifting can place pressure on the pelvic muscles, increasing the likelihood of episodes of incontinence.
High-impact aerobics can also be problematic, but women with female incontinence should consider trying activities such as pilates, step aerobics, swimming, tai chi or walking.
“If you find that you’re more likely to experience leakage when exercising, don’t let it stop you from getting fit,” the company advises.
“Instead, use products which are specially made to cope with urinary leakage.”
Exercise – particularly Kegel exercises that strengthen the pelvic floor muscles – can even help to reduce female incontinence when performed regularly.
Women who rely on incontinence pads or pants are often advised to perform Kegel exercises (otherwise known as Pelvic Floor exercises) several times a day to improve their muscle tone.
A patient group in Gwent, Wales, is working hard to raise awareness of adult incontinence and tackle the stigma associated with the condition.
Nina Weaver, chairman of the Aneurin Bevan Health Board patients’ panel, told the South Wales Argus that the group hopes to raise awareness of the issues affecting those who rely on incontinence pads or pants, such as the closure of public toilets.
She revealed: “Many people who suffer in silence from incontinence are too embarrassed to seek help and we want to encourage a dialogue about this distressing condition.
“Sufferers can be either sex or any age and there are treatments which can prevent or reduce the severity of incontinence, particularly if help is sought early.”
As part of its efforts to raise awareness of male and female incontinence, the panel will link up with the Gwent continence service.
Karen Logan, head of the service, told the Argus that much can be done to help people with urinary incontinence.
She added: “My biggest frustration is that people don’t access services to get the help available.”
Figures suggest that 13 per cent of women and five per cent of men experience urinary incontinence at some point during their lives.
Women who suffer from stress incontinence are likely to benefit from regular exercises to help them regain bladder control, it has been claimed.
Stress incontinence occurs when the pelvic floor muscles have weakened and are unable to prevent urination. Typically, leakage occurs when the person’s bladder is under pressure, such as when they cough, laugh or move heavy objects.
Writing on the South Coast Today website in response to a reader’s question, medic Dr Paul Donohue revealed that Kegel exercises are an important approach for treating stress incontinence. “First you have to learn which muscles to contract,” he revealed. “You learn by deliberately stopping the flow of urine.
“When you have learned what to do, begin the exercises when you’re not urinating. Contract those muscles tightly, hold that contraction for three seconds, relax and rest for three seconds, and perform another 11 consecutive contractions and relaxations.”
According to Dr Donohue, these exercises should be performed several times each day and the contractions should gradually be lengthened until the muscles are being squeezed for ten seconds each time.
The medic noted that people with adult continence will not notice an improvement overnight, but that they should soon see “enough improvement to restart your social life”.
Researchers at McMaster University’s School of Nursing studied almost 1,900 new mothers, one-third of whom had given birth via caesarean section. Almost eight per cent of participants had postnatal depression six weeks after leaving hospital. The researchers found no link between the mode of delivery and risk of postnatal de
pression.However, women who relied on incontinence products after giving birth had an elevated risk of depressive symptoms.
Lead researcher Dr Wendy Sword, whose findings are published in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, said: “We were surprised to find that urinary incontinence is a risk factor for postpartum depression.
“Urinary incontinence following childbirth has not received much attention as a factor contributing to postpartum depression and we do not yet fully understand the reasons incontinence is linked to depression.”
NHS figures suggest that about one in ten mothers in the UK are affected by postnatal depression.
Education about prevention, early intervention and timely treatment are essential if Australia is to see any easing of the increasing economic burden of incontinence. This is the message from the Continence Foundation Australia (CFA) for World Continence Week this week Monday 20 June to Sunday 26 June
To highlight the message, the CFA has released a new report which sets out in stark economic terms the true cost of incontinence to the nation. The 2011 Deloitte Access Economics report – The Economic Impact of Incontinence in Australia, shows that in 2010, nearly 4.8 million Australians were living with incontinence – more than a quarter of the nation’s population. Moreover, the total financial cost to the community in 2010 was estimated to be $42.9billion or approximately $9,014 per sufferer.
The financial cost of incontinence formulated in the report does not reflect the impact on the quality of life of those affected. More people suffer from incontinence in Australia than asthma, anxiety disorders and arthritis.
CFA President and geriatrician, Associate Professor Michael Murray says the report has deliberately used an “economic argument” as a means to increase public awareness of the issue and encourage people to change their lifestyles accordingly or seek professional assistance early rather than later.
Professor Murray said incontinence was an expensive problem that needs to be urgently addressed but that addressing the problem, would mean tackling the stigma head on.
“We need a combination of raising awareness and tackling the stigma. Until we actually attack the stigma, as a society, people are not going to seek help. And they won’t reduce their disability and quality of life and the cost to them as individuals as well as society.”
Professor Murray said many incontinence suffers do not seek help due to the stigma and associated shame. “We need to get the message out that there are things you can do to cure, treat or improve incontinence but in most instances it is important to intervene early.”
“The CFA encourages sufferers to seek professional and assessment earlier than later. I have had people come to me who have had continence problems for 40 years – since childbirth. Waiting 40 years to be treated makes it a lot more challenging; it is easier to treat when someone is 40 than when they are 80,” said Professor Murray.
“Cures may be as simple as bladder retraining, learning how to exercise the pelvic floor, changing medications that may impair the bowel or bladder function or dietary changes such as increasing fibre and fluids in the diet. Other alternatives include medications or surgery to cure incontinence.”
Professor Murray said that despite the persistent stigma, there was an increasing willingness among people with incontinence problems to seek assistance.
“While the number of documented cases has been growing, it is not because people are more incontinent than they used to be. Partly it is because the population is ageing but also people have become increasingly more willing to admit that they have a problem and need help.”
According to the Deloitte Access Economics report, there are many additional hidden costs associated with incontinence, including lower employment rates among people with incontinence. People with incontinence problems are less likely to be employed due to fear or embarrassment that their illness will be discovered. In 2010, total productivity loss due to incontinence was estimated at $34.1 billion.
Another additional cost addressed in the report is the additional care people with incontinence often require that is most frequently provided by a loved one. Though this informal care is provided free of charge, it is not free in an economic sense. Time spent caring is time that cannot be directed to other activities, including paid employment or unpaid work such as housework. In 2010, the opportunity cost of informal care provided to those with incontinence was estimated to be $2.7 billion.
Chief executive of the Continence Foundation of Australia, Barry Cahill, said another objective of the Deloitte Access Economics report was to promote awareness of the prevalence of incontinence problems to demonstrate to people that they are not alone.
“There are a lot of people who have problems with incontinence but unfortunately many don’t think there is much you can do about it – they think it just relates to ageing. We want people to know that it can be better managed and even cured,” said Mr Cahill.
“The awareness theme for this year is ‘pelvic floor first’ and we are encouraging both women and men to regularly exercise their pelvic floor muscles to prevent or lesson the severity of incontinence,” he said.
Professor Murray says he encourages younger women to start pelvic floor exercises before they have children.
“Everybody has some kind of fitness regime and they should naturally incorporate pelvic exercises into their routine.”
“Australians must address this issue. The population is getting older and we need to do something about it before it gets very expensive. If we can reduce the severity and frequency of the problem, we can reduce the economic impact and improve quality of life for the individual at the same time,” Professor Murray said.
Female incontinence is a common problem, but many women are reluctant to seek help because of a sense of embarrassment.
In reality, however, many women can greatly reduce their reliance on adult incontinence products simply by performing regular exercises, according to physical therapist Lisa Kiesel.
Ms Kiesel, who specialises in pelvic floor problems, told the News Junky Journal: “Scientific evidence shows that 80 per cent of women can improve with physical therapy that focuses on muscle strength and healthy bladder habits.
“There are treatments that help so women don’t have to deal with these annoying symptoms.”
About 13 per cent of women in the UK are thought to be affected by female incontinence, according to NHS figures.
In the vast majority of cases, the problem is caused by stress or urge incontinence.
Stress incontinence occurs when the pelvic floor muscles are too weak to prevent urination, while leakage that occurs when a woman feels an intense need to pass urine is known as urge incontinence.