Health advice: Don't suffer with incontinence in silence

Incontinence can be caused by stress.
Incontinence can be caused by stress.

Despite the potentially debilitating impact and embarrassment of living with incontinence, it’s important to know that you are not alone and that help is available.

Here’s some advice on how to tackle the problem.

Urinary incontinence

The two most common types of urinary incontinence are referred to as “stress” or “urge” incontinence. In reality, many patients suffer with a mixed picture of both stress and urge incontinence.

Stress incontinence occurs when the pressure inside the bladder, as it fills with urine, is greater than the strength of the urethra to remain closed. This can lead to urine being released involuntarily when additional pressure is created, for example due to sneezing or laughing.

This can be a result of childbirth, weight issues, surgical damage during hysterectomy or prostate operations, and neurological conditions including multiple sclerosis or Parkinson’s disease.

Pelvic floor exercises are so often overlooked but can have a significant impact on stress incontinence. Maintaining pelvic floor tone in women can also help prevent genital prolapse later in life.

Urge incontinence is a result of the detrusor muscles within the walls of the bladder contracting too often. Causes can include consuming large quantities of alcohol or caffeine, some medications, poor fluid intake, neurological conditions and constipation.

Bowel Incontinence

Bowel incontinence is normally a symptom of an underlying problem. It can be related to constipation, diarrhoea, inflammatory bowel conditions, haemorrhoids, muscle or nerve damage within the bowel due to stroke, diabetes or multiple sclerosis

Bowel incontinence can be a sign of more serious medical issues and should never be ignored.

Seek help

Whilst incontinence is incredibly common, it is not a symptom to be ignored.

There are many treatment options and repeat medication available. Supervised pelvic floor exercises or bladder and bowel training can also improve symptoms and quality of life.

As there are so many treatment options now available, it is absolutely worth discussing with them.

The bottom line is that no-one needs to suffer in silence.

Dr. Alexandra Phelan is an NHS GP and Online Doctor for Pharmacy2U.