Incontinence refers to loss of or weakened bladder and bowel control. It can affect people of all ages. There are approximately 800,000 Australians over the age of 15 who have bladder control problems.
Incontinence may be due to temporary illness, childbirth, bladder infections and disease or injury of the spinal cord. Incontinence is a symptom of an underlying medical condition and can often be improved or cured with appropriate treatment, referral to a specialist or continence clinic may be required.
The main types of incontinence are:
The involuntary loss of urine associated with physical exertion such as coughing, sneezing and lifting. It is due to weakened pelvic floor muscles caused often after childbirth, or associated with obesity, chronic cough, constipation or medication. The term 'stress' relates to the physical and mechanical stress of the abdominal muscles compressing the bladder wall.
Caused by overactive contractions of the bladder muscle ond characterised by a very strong urge to urinate and being unable to reach the toilet in time. It may be triggered by a bladder infection, stress, anxiety, o spinal injury, on obstruction or disease.
When the bladder is unable to contract and becomes too full, the resulting pressure forces the urine to dribble out. Caused usually by some sort of obstruction. In men, this may be an enlarged prostate gland. In women, it is more likely constipation or uterine fibroids.
Usually associated with a disease or injury of the nervous system, where there is loss of bladder sensation. Urine is passed without warning.
More commonly known as bed wetting, this condition is more common in boys than girls. It is often associated with stressful events. Medical advice should be sought if it continues.
Treatment and Management
Most incontinence can be cured or at least significantly improved. It is estimated that 30 - 50% of all incontinence conditions can be cured.
Incontinence may be helped by bladder retraining techniques, pelvic floor exercises, medication and surgery. It is recommended a patient is referred to a doctor, physiotherapist or continence adviser for the appropriate advice and treatment.
Many incontinence sufferers can be cured or at least have their condition significantly improved through appropriate assessment and treatment.
For those people who still have an occasional episode of incontinence or whose condition does not fully respond to treatment, it is important that they aim to achieve social continence ie. protection through the use of continence aids.
The main types of incontinence aids are:
• Continence briefs and pads eg. Conni Briefs
• Absorbent bed sheets and chair covers eg. Conni bed and chair pads, Dry life sheets, Mattress and quilt protectors.
• Urinals, bedpans and commodes.