If you're one of the millions of people who suffer from the disruptive effects of urinary incontinence or if you have a close friend, relative or loved one who does this, we hope the information in this section will help you in managing the condition effectively and help with living life as you want to.
Sadly, incontinence is still not widely discussed within the healthcare field despite the greater openness of recent years that has shed light on problems such as male sexual dysfunction, we still rarely hear urinary incontinence discussed publicly. Urinary Incontinence can range in severity from occasionally losing a few drops of urine through to frequent heavy losses and is a widespread and significant health issue that can be very costly to patients if not managed effectively, both in terms of products and time but more importantly in terms of quality of life.
Clearly both society and the medical profession need to address the problem of urinary incontinence effectively so why is it still not discussed openly? There are many reasons for this, including:
- People are unaware of high widespread the condition is and believe it’s only they who experience it, thus they don’t want others to know they are experiencing continence issues.
- Many people believe that incontinence is simply a natural process of ageing and nothing can be done about it
- People are unaware of the large variety of incontinence products available to help them manage the condition effectively
As a result many people go to great lengths to hide their condition from family and friends. In some cases this can go for many years before others who could help are aware of the condition. If you are one of these people you probably know where every toilet is before you leave your home to go out. Perhaps if there are no toilets available where you plan to go you will avoid a trip. In some of the worst situations people have given up on jobs or hobbies they love because they are worried about what might happen, and have declined invitations to important events such as weddings or parties.
Family and friends can be baffled by such behaviour and the problem may just get worse and worse, however the most important thing is to seek help and advice and to take control of the condition.
This guide aims to help you do this by giving information about the causes of urinary incontinence and what can be done to help manage to help you get on with living life as you want to.
Facts you should know about Urinary Incontinence
- Urinary Incontinence is a very common problem affecting up to 6 million people in the United Kingdom according to the NHS and up to 200 million people worldwide (World Health Organization Calls First International Consultation on Incontinence. Press Release WHO/49, 1 July 1998)
- Incontinence is not normal at any age and is not a direct result of the ageing process.
- Incontinence is not a disease but a symptom of an underlying condition. If you experience Incontinence then it is important to consult a Health Professional in order to find out the cause and treat it if possible.
- Incontinence may often be helped by simple, low cost, procedures that do not require surgery, drugs or lengthy treatment.
- Women are 5 times more likely to develop urinary incontinence then men.
- Half the female population will experience urinary incontinence at some time in their lives.
- Only one if five women affected seek help for incontinence issues.
- 6% of women between 15 to 44 experience continence issues.
- Over 10% of men over 65 have urinary incontinence to some degree.
- In 80 to 90% of cases, treatment can improve the condition.
- The World Health Organisation reported that incontinence is a largely preventable and treatable condition and that it's "certainly not an inevitable consequence of ageing," adding that "the most typical reaction exhibited by patients when they are diagnosed with poor bladder control was not fear nor disbelief, but relief." (World Health Organization Calls First International Consultation on Incontinence. Press Release WHO/49, 1 July 1998)
- It is likely that actual incidence of urinary incontinence is higher than the numbers reported as many people never report their condition.
Some more facts and statistics can be found on our Incontinence Statistics page.
What You Should Know about Urinary Incontinence
The Basic Facts
Like every person you are unique and respond to health problems in your own way. On one hand you may want to know every medical detail of your condition, conduct extensive research, and ask many questions. On the other hand, you may be content with a knowledge of the basic facts and prefer that your medical choices are closely guided by your health professional. Only you can decide how much you want to know about Urinary Incontinence but there are certain facts about this condition that apply to everyone:
- A bladder control problem can develop at any time during your life.
- There are preventative measures that may help avoid this condition.
- Knowing the facts about incontinence helps in recognising symptons in ourselves and in those close to us.
- It is important to seek help immediately.
- People who are well informed and involved in the treatment usually achieve better results.
What is Urinary Incontinence and How does it affect you?
A simple definition of Urinary Incontinence is "The involunatary loss of Urine". In other words, urinary incontinence is the the inability to control the flow of urine. You may leak or pass urine at times or in places when you don't want to. In turn, this can causes concerns both socially and/or hygiencially.
Socially, you may be concerned about possible embarrassment in front of others should an incident occur, this may be friends or strangers. Often this is the biggest concern of those experiencing the condition. However, effective management of the condition can remove these worries.
Hygienically, it may be an issue if you are unable to change or clean up quickly. If Urinary Incontinence is not managed effectively then the skin can get red and possibly raw, and there is a risk of rashes or infections developing. Sores and odours are possibly further developements. However effective continence management can remove these issues.
What are the symptoms?
There are several different types of incontinence and they often have different symptoms. The following are typical signs common to all types:
- Loss of urine when performing physical actions such as running, lifting, dancing, laughing, sneezing or even moving suddenly.
- Loss of urine following a sudden and unexpected urge to urinate, leaving no time to get to the bathroom.
- Loss of urine accompanied by a feeling that your bladder never empties completely.
- Needing to get up many times during the night your night to urinate and sometimes wetting yourself or the bed.
- Needing to urinate more than eight times day when your liquid intake is normal.
When is Urinary Leakage a Problem?
Do you have a problem should worry about it if you have lost control of your bladder only once? Or if you have a recurring, but small dribble occasionally? Or if a little urine comes out during sexual activity?
The answer is you can't know for sure. You may or you may not. The only way to find out for certain is speak to a health professional and get a medical evaluation. As Urinary leakage can sometimes be a sign of a more serious underlying condition, it is always important to discuss it with your doctor as soon as possible. Waiting can result in the underlying condition responsible for causing the incontinence get much worse, something you definitely want to avoid if at all possible.
What Causes Urinary Incontinence?
It is important to remember that urinary incontinence is not a disease but rather a symptom or indication of an underlying condition. Some of these conditions may be minor or temporary, but others can be quite serious and require immediate treatment.
If you are leaking urine there is a reason this is happening and is important that you find out why. Guessing what it might be , or worse yet , not thinking about it, will not help you and may even be harmful to your overall health. The only way to find the underlying cause is through evaluation by a qualified health professional.
Some factors that may cause or aggravate bladder problems include:
- Weakness of the Pelvic Floor Muscles
- Lowered estrogen levels, especially after menopause
- Spinal Cord injuries
- Urinary tract infections
- Pelvic injuries
- Pelvic surgery including hysterectomy, rectal operations and previous surgery for incontinence
- Back injury or back surgery
- Radiation Therapy
- Chronic constipation
- Bladder, uterine or other pelvic organ prolapse
- Chronic coughing
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Genetic factors
- Some medications
You may think you know the cause of your incontinence, or you may be convinced it will go away, especially if it occurs after you have a baby and learn that friends and relatives had same problem for a short time. But you may be wrong, that’s why it is always best to discuss any urinary leakage with your doctor and find out exactly what is going on. Don't be afraid because the cause of incontinence is not a serious underlying disease for most people and can be cured or treated.
There are different types of bladder/urinary incontinence, each with different symptoms and causes. The most common types of urinary incontinence are stress incontinence (also known as SUI), urge incontinence and mixed urinary incontinence.
Stress incontinence (also referred to as SUI) occurs when the muscles in the pelvic floor, under sudden, increased pressure (stress), are too weak to hold the urethral sphincters closed. The result is an involuntary leakage of urine during everyday activities such as sneezing, coughing, laughing or exercising.
Urge incontinence (also referred to as unstable or overactive bladder) is caused by involuntary, uncontrolled contractions of the muscle in the bladder. This results in a sudden urge to go to the toilet, and involuntary urine leakage before reaching the toilet.
Mixed urinary incontinence is a combination of stress urinary incontinence and urge urinary incontinence.
Overflow incontinence (a frequent or constant dribble of urine) results from an inability to empty the bladder and occurs in people with a damaged bladder, blocked urethra or neurological damage. With overflow incontinence you may feel as if you never completely empty your bladder. When you try to urinate, you may produce only a weak stream of urine.
(To Be Continued)