Urinary incontinence is described as the unintentional passing of urine. Urinary incontinence affects both men and women, but it tends to be more common in women overall. It can affect people at any age and for a multitude of reasons. Stress incontinence (when you experience leakage at times when your bladder is under pressure, such as when you cough or laugh) and Urge incontinence (when you leak immediately, or soon after, you feel a sudden, intense urge to pass urine) are the most common forms of urinary incontinence. In many cases, the problem can be caused by a weakening of the bladder and the muscles which control the bladder. There are other causes such as pregnancy and vaginal birth, obesity, a family history of incontinence and aging in general, meaning anyone is at risk of developing a bladder issue.
The condition has been known to affect people’s self-confidence, their personal relationships, intimacy, and in some cases it can have a significant impact on their employment. For those working in jobs where it is not as easy to run off to the bathroom 2 to 3 times an hour, it can be debilitating and embarrassing. Further to that it has been found that those suffering with bladder incontinence also feel a strain on their finances, with incontinence pads being incredibly expensive. The NHS will on average provide 2-4 pads per person per day; however for someone with an incredibly overactive bladder, this is of little help. Many who do require incontinence pads often feel too embarrassed to go to see their doctor about their problem and so suffer in silence; paying the price for a condition which is out of their control.
Chief executive of the Urology Foundation, Louise de Winter, has said: ‘Incontinence costs the NHS nearly £2 billion every year, and the emotional and social costs are equally high…Breaking down taboos plays an important part of this, enabling people to acknowledge there is a problem and seek help to deal with it…Thousands of people are suffering in silence and it simply doesn’t have to be this way.’
World Continence Week, which was created by the International Continence Society in 2009, aims to encourage those with bladder incontinence to speak out and not shy away due to embarrassment. The awareness week is recognised in over 24 countries across the world and is promoted by charities such as the Bladder and Bowel Foundation and the Urology Foundation, as well as the NHS who wish to shed light on the common problem and encourage people to seek help from their GP.
Here are some changes that the NHS suggests that can help to alleviate your symptoms:
- Reducing your caffeine intake – caffeine is found in tea, coffee and cola and can increase the amount of urine your body produces.
- Altering how much fluid you drink a day – drinking too much or too little can make incontinence worse.
- Losing weight if you are overweight or obese – use the healthy weight calculator to find out if you are a healthy weight for your height.
 NHS Choices – http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Incontinence-urinary/Pages/Introduction.aspx