It’s embarrassing and distressing, but if you suffer from incontinence you are not alone and you don’t have to put up with it. One in 20 Australians regularly experiences uncontrolled leakage of urine – That’s over a million people, of all ages, but more commonly women and older people. Incontinence can also involve leakage of wind or faeces, and can be caused by any of the following factors:
– Urinary tract infections (UTIs)
– Menopause (leading to lower oestrogen levels)
– Pelvic organ prolapse
– Surgery or trauma affecting the bladder
– Neurological diseases (e.g. Parkinson’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis)
– Medication (e.g. Prazosin, diuretics)
– Chronic straining (e.g. lifting heavy weights, constipation)
– Bladder tumours
– Functional causes (e.g. impaired mobility or cognition)
Your first port of call should be your GP, who will have seen many people before with this problem. Your GP will help to identify the cause of your incontinence, and will often be able to prescribe a cure. Even where this is not possible, there is much that can be done to improve continence – no matter your age. For many people, simple exercises and training programs can help considerably.
Good bladder habits
Make sure you are drinking 6-8 glasses or cups of fluid per day. Try to cut down on caffeinated and alcoholic drinks, as these can worsen leakage. If constipation is a problem, ensure you get regular exercise and plenty of fibre in your diet. If these simple measures don’t help, your GP can make further suggestions.
Protect your pelvic floor
Straining and coughing can weaken the pelvic floor muscles, so avoid repetitive heavy lifting at work and at the gym and seek treatment for constipation or a chronic coughs. Information on pelvic floor exercises, for both women and men, is available from the Jean Hailes Foundation for Women’s Health and The Continence Foundation of Australia.
Maintain a healthy weight
There is also evidence that weight loss can significantly reduce incontinence. If incontinence affects you, seek help from your GP. You can also find further information by calling the National Continence Helpline (1800 33 00 66) or visiting any of the websites below:
- www.toiletmap.gov.au (National Public Toilet Map)
- www.physiotherapy.asn.au (For local Continence Physiotherapist)
Published with the permission of the Jean Hailes Foundation for Women’s Health
For more information visit www.jeanhailes.org.au or call Jean Hailes toll free number 1800 JEAN HAILES (532 642).