World Continence Week 18-24th June 2018.
What is incontinence?
Incontinence is a term that describes 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. In fact, over 4.8 million Australians have bladder or bowel control problems for a variety of reasons. Incontinence can be treated and managed. In many cases it can also be cured.
Who is at risk?
Anyone at any age can develop some form of incontinence. Some health conditions and life events can put you at an increased risk of developing either urinary or faecal incontinence.
Risk factors for urinary incontinence
The risk factors most commonly linked with urinary incontinence include:
- pregnancy (both pre- and post-natal women)
- younger women who have had children
- urinary tract infections
- specific types of surgery such as prostatectomy (removal of all or part of the prostate) and hysterectomy (removal of all or part of the uterus and/or ovaries)
- reduced mobility preventing you from getting to or using the toilet
- neurological and musculoskeletal conditions such as multiple sclerosis and arthritis
- health conditions such as diabetes, stroke, heart conditions, respiratory conditions, and prostate problems,
- some medications.
Risk factors for faecal incontinence
A risk factor for faecal incontinence is urinary incontinence. Other risk factors are similar to those of urinary incontinence, but also include:
- chronic diarrhoea, and
Think you might have a problem?
If you experience bladder or bowel problems, but are not sure if you should seek help, try the questionnaire below.
Bladder and bowel questionnaire
- 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, sneeze, cough or laugh?
- 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 your bowels?
- Do you sometimes soil your underwear?
- Do you plan your daily routine around where the nearest toilet is?
If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions you may have a bladder or bowel control problem.
The first step is to talk to your Doctor or Nurse or contact the National Continence Helpline on 1800 33 00 66. The National Continence Helpline is staffed by a team of Continence Nurse Advisors who offer free information, advice and support and can provide you with a wide range of information resources and referrals to local services.
Pelvic Floor Exercises
One way of reducing symptoms of incontinence, and preventing some types of incontinence, is by doing ‘pelvic floor exercises’.
These exercises help to strengthen the pelvic floor. The pelvic floor is a layer of muscles that help support the bladder & bowel, and the uterus in women. When this is weak, it can make you more prone to urine and faecal leaks.
Pelvic floor exercises are rather easy to follow and can be done at any time of the day. You can do them before you get out of bed, in the car, sitting at your desk, even in meetings! The list goes on. For a quick guide, visit http://www.pelvicfloorfirst.org.au, for more great instructions and lots of interesting information.
For more information on World Continence Week, Prevention and ‘The Facts’, visit: https://www.continence.org.au