Continence issues are very common and can and do affect people of all ages and genders.
Incontinence is when someone has any accidental or involuntary loss of either urine (wee) from the bladder (more commonly known as urinary incontinence), or faeces (poo) or flatus (wind) from the bowel (more commonly known as faecal incontinence). This can range in severity from a small leak to a complete loss of bladder or bowel control.
Incontinence can seriously impact a person’s quality of life, with most sufferers describing their continence problem as more life affecting compared to any other health complaint they have.
Incontinence affects women, men and children of all ages, physical abilities and background. There are however, some health conditions and life events that can put you at an increased risk of developing either urinary or faecal incontinence. This includes childbirth or surgery where either may have damaged muscles or nerves, severe or long-lasting constipation or diarrhoea, IBS, diabetes or stroke.
Whilst much is said about urinary incontinence, faecal incontinence (poor bowel control) is more common than people think. In fact, this is known to affect approximately 1 in 20 people in the UK.
Rosemary MacRitchie, NHS Western Isles Clinical Nurse Specialist Tissue Viability & Continence Advisor, said: “For those who experience this common issue, talking to your GP is the first step towards finding a way to effectively manage or, in some cases, even cure the problem.
“There are also certain changes such as adopting a healthier diet and lifestyle that may help. This includes regular exercise and practicing good toilet habits which can all lead to improvements.”
A series of local factsheets have been produced by NHS Western Isles to help support people to prevent incontinence and support those undergoing treatments. This includes titles such as Bladder Retraining, Constipation, Drinking for a Healthy Bladder, Pelvic Floor Exercises (for both men and women) and Your Bladder and Bowel Health, all available via: www.wihb.scot.nhs.uk/our-services/nurse-led-services/continence-nurse-service/
Rosemary added, “Although you may feel initially embarrassed talking to your GP about your symptoms, this is something that they commonly hear from their patients and I would encourage you to make an appointment with them as early as possible.
“If you are secretly worried about incontinence, the fear of it can affect every decision you make. If you are reading this and you recognise that fear in yourself, now is the time to ask for help and remember that all enquiries are treated in the strictest confidence.”