It’s rarely spoken about, but incontinence is one of the most prevalent health issues facing Australians, with one in four adults affected by bladder and bowel control problems. Incontinence is widespread and ranges in severity from “just a small leak” to complete loss of bladder or bowel control.
The good news is most people affected by incontinence can be better treated, managed, or cured. Of course, this can only happen when you seek help – which a staggering 70 per cent of people don’t.
Incontinence should never be dismissed as trivial. It is not normal at any age or life stage and should be treated by a health professional as it will not get better on its own and could even worsen.
Recognising Different Types of Incontinence:
Urinary incontinence (or poor bladder control) can range from the occasional leak when you laugh, cough, or exercise, to the complete inability to control your bladder, which may cause you to completely wet yourself. Other symptoms may include the constant need to urgently or frequently visit the toilet.
About one in 20 people experience faecal incontinence, which means difficulty controlling their bowels. This may mean you pass faeces or stools at the wrong time or in the wrong place. You may also find you pass wind when you don’t mean to or experience staining of your underwear.
The most common causes of faecal incontinence are:
- weak back passage muscles due to having babies, getting older, some types of surgery, or radiation therapy
- constipation, or
- severe diarrhoea.
The first step is to talk to your doctor 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, confidential advice, and can provide you with a wide range of resources and referrals to your local specialists and services.
Courtesy of the Continence Foundation of Australia