Incontinence – whether it’s a problem for you, or for a relative – is a very sensitive issue. It can be difficult to talk about openly and, despite the amount of people who suffer from it, there is unfortunately still a stigma associated with the condition which prevents people from seeking help and support.
It’s certainly not just the physiological effects of incontinence that cause distress. Anxiety and even depression are common side effects as people may feel that their body is letting them down. Sadly, incontinence, if it’s not managed, can start to limit everyday life. Sufferers may be apprehensive about going out in case they lose control or are unable to find a toilet in time. They may avoid staying overnight away from home, in case they have an accident in someone else’s bed. As a result, incontinence can also cause sufferers to feel isolated and withdrawn.
It may help to know that if you do suffer from incontinence, you are not alone. According to incontinence.co.uk, the majority of studies have found that incontinence affects around 300m people worldwide (which equates to 5% of the total population) and that 7 million people in the UK suffer from urinary incontinence.
But sadly, the figures may be even higher given that those who are suffering with incontinence simply don’t report it. In fact, men are more likely to admit to sexual importance rather than to symptoms of incontinence!
The good news is that there is plenty of support and treatment available. Though many may regard incontinence as an inevitable aspect of ageing, early treatment can, at the very least, manage, or in some instance completely cure it entirely.
The first step is to make an appointment with the GP who will offer advice in the first instance. You may then be referred on to an NHS Continence Advisor at one of 360 NHS Continence Clinics in the UK. These clinics deal with incontinence issues every day (so no need to feel embarrassed) and the advisor will assess the problem and develop a treatment plan in a confidential, empathic way. They claim to significantly improve the lives of between 75%-80% of incontinence sufferers, without the need for surgery. In fact, only 10%-15% of people will need surgery. Continence Clinics are usually based in hospitals and health centres and anyone who would rather bypass their GP can even go to them direct for an appointment.
To find details of your local NHS continence clinic, call your local hospital.
Treatment for incontinence will depend on each individual’s symptoms but might include physiotherapy exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, medication, a weight loss plan, stopping smoking or reducing intake of caffeinated drinks.
Everyday life will become much easier if you are prepared for any eventuality. Here are some top tips which should help boost your confidence:
- If you’re planning to go out, try and research where the nearest toilet facilities are in advance. You can do this by visiting The Great British Toilet Map: Find Toilet or if you’re reading this while we are still in lockdown, try Lockdown Loo
- When travelling, it’s helpful to wear lose dark clothing that’s easy to change in an out of if necessary.
- If on a plane or a train, sit in an aisle seat, close to the toilet.
- Prepare a small, emergency clean-up bag containing wet wipes, clean underwear, disposable bags, deodorizing spray and hand sanitizer.
There are some excellent new products on the market that can help with the practicalities of incontinence. Wearing personal pads or pull up pants during the day can avoid concerns about going out, either to friends’ houses or restaurants. For nighttime as well as for staying overnight in new places, Hippychick offers a range of discreet mattress protectors specially designed for incontinence. Unlike the unpleasant sweaty, plastic sheets of old, which are uncomfortable and embarrassing, these award-winning protectors have a soft, breathable cotton or Tencel top cover, with a discreet, ‘rustle-free’ waterproof layer below. They are affordable, machine-washable and available as a flat sheet (easy to whip on and for use either beneath or on top off a regular sheet), as well as fitted mattress protectors which can also double up as a base sheet. See Waterproof Mattress & Bedding Protectors – For Kids & Adults | Hippychick for more information. Don’t leave home without one!