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:
- Stress incontinence – accidental loss of urine that occurs when you cough, sneeze, laugh or exercise
- Urge incontinence – strong or sudden urges to urinate accompanied with, or closely followed by, some leakage
- Mixed incontinence – a mixture of stress and urge incontinence
- 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.