Let’s Talk… Incontinence

Do you rush to use the toilet and sometimes leak before you get there? Or wake multiple times a night to use the bathroom?

Perhaps you plan your daily routine around where the nearest toilet is.  If so, you may be experiencing incontinence.

What is Incontinence?

There are two types of incontinence: urinary and faecal, with urinary being the most common.

Urinary incontinence is loss of bladder control, making urine leak involuntarily. It affects more than 5 million Australians.

More than 6 in 10 women and approximately 3 in every 10 men will be affected in some way, although most don’t ask for professional help due to embarrassment.

Urinary incontinence could result in a small loss when you cough or sneeze or laugh, or strain as in lifting a load, or it could be a complete loss of control, which could result in wetting yourself.

The other form of incontinence is faecal incontinence, which is loss of control over bowel movements. This can affect 5% of people, is more common in older people, but can be seen in young people too.

Poor bowel control can be caused by muscles around the anus becoming weak after someone has had a baby or surgery in most cases, although constipation can also cause these muscles to weaken. 

Incontinence can often be treated or managed with the right guidance and support.

Who is at risk?

Incontinence can affect people of all ages. The following can increase your risk:

  • pregnancy
  • obesity
  • menopause
  • having a urinary tract infection
  • constipation
  • following surgery to remove the prostate gland or uterus
  • certain condition such as multiple sclerosis, arthritis, diabetes, stroke, or heart, breathing or prostate problems
  • dementia
  • some medications

How can you live with incontinence without it ruling your everyday routine?

There are treatments available and ways to manage incontinence, dependent on the root cause – so the first step is to make an appointment with your GP.

It is important to remember that your doctor will have seen a number of patients who have or are experiencing incontinence. You are not alone. Your doctor can help guide, support and tailor your care to suit your lifestyle.

To prepare for a consultation, write down as much information as possible to help you describe the problem.

Important things to tell your GP are:

  • your symptoms
  • how often they occur
  • specific times of the day (day or night) or activities (exercise, laughing, coughing) that seem to bring them on
  • food or drinks that cause or worsen your symptoms

Remember, there are several ways to prevent incontinence, or to stop it from getting worse:

  • Drink plenty of water every day. This can be concerning for some who have to run to the bathroom but it can help prevent bladder irritability. Ideally cut down on alcohol, caffeinated and fizzy drinks as these can severely irritate the bladder.
  • Eat a healthy and varied diet which includes lots of fibre. Fibre improves bowel function by absorbing water and adding bulk to your bowel motions. Bulky stools keep things moving through your bowel and minimises constipation which can affect the muscles in your anus. Fibre is found in foods such as multigrain or whole grain breads, cereals, fruit and vegetables.
  • Practise good toilet habits – go when you have the urge, sit on the toilet leaning forward with your elbows on your knees. This is the optimal position to empty your bladder and bowel.
  • Ensure you are within a healthy weight range. Obesity increases your chances of incontinence due to body fat adding a strain to the pelvic floor. Speak to one of our doctors or dietician if you need advice on nutrition and weight loss.
  • Exercise regularly as exercise stimulates bowel movements, and include pelvic floor muscle exercises in your routine. This exercise is integral in maintaining healthy and strong muscles which control bladder function. Learn more about pelvic floor exercises and how to do it effectively here: Pelvic floor exercises (thewomens.org.au)

If you are concerned about incontinence, make an appointment with your supportive and experienced Caroline Springs Doctor and take those steps to a happier, healthier you.

Book online at www.activemed.com.au or call 03 9363 0954.

The National Continence Helpline is staffed by Nurse Continence Specialists who offer free and confidential information, advice and support.

The National Continence Helpline can be reached on 1800 33 00 66.