Survey results for

April/June: Pelvic Health Awareness

Pelvic health survey reveals 40% of men have difficulty getting an erection, 26% of men experience penis or testes pain yet only half seek medical advice. 65% of men and women need to urinate more than once every 2 hours, and 18% have pain during urination.

Pelvic health is a general term that covers a wide range of symptoms from pelvic floor weakness to incontinence and pain. Pelvic floor disorders are known to affect 1 in 3 women and 1 in 10 men in the UK1 and is estimated that there are 3-6 million people in the UK suffering with some form of incontinence.2

Pelvic floor weakness, one of the most common disorders that is often associated with women, can be caused by overstretched muscles during birth, pressure of obesity, chronic constipation associated with straining, constant coughing, and lower oestrogen levels after menopause. However, men can also suffer with pelvic floor weakness due to some forms of surgery where the muscles are cut, eg prostate cancer treatment.

Pelvic pain occurs below the belly button in the lower abdomen (including the sex organs) and may develop from many diseases and conditions and also before or during a period, during or after sex, during ovulation, after a bowel movement, after urination etc.

Given the large numbers of the UK population living with pelvic disorders, talkhealth conducted a survey in June 2018 to find out more about its community’s understanding of the signs and symptoms. Over 1,400 people took part in the survey; 90% were female and 10% male. One-third of participants were unaware of the signs and symptoms of weakness or tightness of the pelvic floor muscles.

Of those who were aware of some of the symptoms, two-thirds had experienced pelvic health issues; 65% needed to urinate more than once every 2 hours, 33% had a strong signal to urinate that couldn’t be ignored leading to involuntary loss of urine, 26% experienced difficulty urinating despite the urge to go, 18% had pain during urination and 16% had experienced general bladder pain.

Over 40% of men who took part in the survey reported an inability to get an erection and 26% said they experience pain in the penis or testes. And yet, only half of these had sought any type of help from a healthcare professional.

Generally, across all survey participants, only half had discussed their symptoms with their GP but of those who had, 79% received a definitive diagnosis. As a result, 81% were prescribed medication and 27% exercise. Of those who had not been to see their GP, the most common reasons were embarrassment and feeling that their symptoms were not serious enough to warrant seeing a doctor.

It is important that if you experience any type of pelvic pain, or symptoms that are not usual to you, to seek medical advice from your GP who can either provide you with a diagnosis or refer you for further treatment. You should not ignore your symptoms. For example, mycoplasma genitalium (MG), a sexually transmitted infection, often has no symptoms but can cause pelvic inflammatory disease, which can leave some women infertile. MG can be missed, and if not treated correctly can develop resistance to antibiotics. Symptoms to look out for in men are a burning sensation in the penis when urinating, and a watery discharge. And in women abnormal discharge from the vagina and discomfort when urinating.3

When asked, other than seeking advice from a GP where do you go to find more information about your symptoms, 58% said they use the Internet.

Understanding of pelvic health issues was low overall, with 86% wanting more information generally, and two-thirds saying that if there was further support such as a patient support programme, providing information and guidance, they would join.

1 - Progresshealth.co.uk, (2014)."Progress - Pelvic Floor Dysfunction Clinic."[online]
Available at: http://www.progresshealth.co.uk/pelvic-floor-dysfunction-clinic.shtml

2 - NHS.uk, (2014). "Urinary incontinence - NHS Choices." [online] Available at: http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/incontinence-urinary/pages/introduction.aspx

3 - http://www.sahealth.sa.gov.au/

If you're interested in a detailed analysis of the results for these surveys please contact us.