Talking about urinary incontinence


This week is World Continence Week, an annual campaign to raise awareness of continence. The theme this year, Incontinence – no laughing matter, tackles a common response by people to laugh off incontinence. However, it’s a big issue for older people. Wouldn’t it be great if the stigma surrounding incontinence was shaken a little?

Urinary incontinence is a health condition that is prevalent among the whole population although it is more likely to affect older people. In the UK, it is estimated that there are around 3.2 million people over 65 suffering from accidental leakage of urine

There are several different types of urinary incontinence including:

  1. Stress incontinence – accidental loss of urine that occurs when you cough, sneeze, laugh or exercise
  2. Urge incontinence – strong or sudden urges to urinate accompanied with, or closely followed by, some leakage
  3. Mixed incontinence – a mixture of stress and urge incontinence
  4. Overflow incontinence – overfill of the bladder causing leakage

Although incontinence is not life threatening, it can be a big threat to well being and maintaining independence. Those who experience it sometimes avoid going out, because of feeling self-conscious or the worry that there may be no loos available in a hurry.

This can cause people to miss out on social occasions, leading to feelings of social isolation and loneliness and can even lead to depression. There can also be an increased risk of falling caused by slipping, rushing to the loo or getting out of bed too quickly.

It can be embarrassing

There is no doubt that incontinence can be extremely embarrassing. Research that we have recently carried out with the Urology Foundation shows that those who experience incontinence typically put their heads down and try to self-manage, often with stressful consequences.

Don’t suffer in silence – what’s really clear is that we need to talk more

As part of the Week, we urge anyone who may be suffering from incontinence to break down the taboos and awkwardness and discuss the topic, particularly with their GP or Health Professional. They will be able to assess your symptoms, identify the cause, and discuss what treatment or exercises may help tackle your problems.

It may be embarrassing, but it’s the best first step you can take in dealing with this issue.

For more information on incontinence, please visit the Age UK or the Urology Foundation websites.

2 thoughts on “Talking about urinary incontinence”

  1. Incontinence should never be an embarrassing subject especially when speaking to your GP, he \ she will have discussed the subject with hundreds of patients previously and the good news is that mild \ moderate incontinence can be effectively managed without hardly any distruption to lifestyle.

    I completely agree about never ‘suffer in silence’, seek help and advice, face up to the issue, you will be surprised how effective incontinence products are these days.

    Finally, depending on the age of the sufferer, exercise will always help, even if it’s just a 20 minute walk to the shops and back each day!

  2. Do you feel that what you eat and drink might affect incontinence? They do in me.

    I recorded together in one list things I ate and drank with the time of day, and quantity of urine and time of day.

    I wrote down in time order, and recorded any medicines too.
    I often experienced urgency, and recorded times to the nearest 15 minutes.
    I recorded on most days for six weeks.

    To approximate urine quantity, I counted when urinating – 1,2,3,4,…..
    (Counting can be a proxy for volume if counting speed is relatively consistent, and if my body urinates at a similar rate of outflow most times. Each individual count will not mean a lot, and there will be fluctuation in count speed anyway.)
    I worked out the time interval between the various drinks and foods and when I urinated to see any patterns related to types of foods.
    For several years my count was less than 10, (which takes about 8 seconds).
    At presently I average 14, sometimes 30.
    I have Urgency about twice a week, and very seldom Pain.
    Getting up in the night is now once a week rather than twice a night.
    My other incontinence symptoms are very seldom.

    Recording allowed me to identify change in frequency and volume,
    And possibly any foods or drinks that trigger incontinence.
    I am not saying that foods cause incontinence, but I am saying foods may trigger symptoms.
    Some drinks affect me in less than half an hour, while some foods affect me most next day, and a few for two or three days after.

    In order of severity, I avoid;
    Stimulants (coffee, tea, and dark chocolate), nuts, peas, onions and peppers, fruit high in fructose sugar eg raisins, manufactured foods containing fructose syrup, and fizzy drinks.
    D-tox with fruit smoothies is not good for me either.
    Is my incontinence cured? No, but my life is fairly normal now.
    I still have most symptoms ocassionally, and I have yet to determine triggers for leaking before urinating and dribble after – celery might be affecting my bladder neck valve, mainly next day. Urgency on proximity (closeness) to a toilet, eg as I arrive home, is an unknown.
    Artificial sweeteners too.
    Exercise cycling or running appears to influence frequency for me.
    And a cold floor surface such as tiles if I have no footwear can lead to urgency.
    Other people may well have different triggers from mine,
    but I do think coffee and tea (which contain caffeine) are likely to affect many people.

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