Incontinence is the inability to control your bladder or bowel, so that you wet or soil yourself. It is estimated that over three million adults in this country suffer from incontinence. Many of these suffer from nocturnal enuresis – bed wetting when asleep.
What causes incontinence?
Incontinence has a number of causes. In women, the pelvic floor may be weakened by childbirth. In men, the cause may be an enlarged prostate gland. Other causes include infection, bladder stones and spinal cord damage.
How can incontinence be treated?
Because incontinence is a symptom of several conditions, there is no one single treatment. It may be treatable with drugs or surgery. Your GP may be able to treat you, or it may be necessary for you to be referred to a hospital specialist for investigations and treatment. Many areas have specialist nurse continence advisers who may also be able to help.
Is there anything I can do to help myself?
There are a number of ways you can help yourself:
Drink at least six glasses of water a day as incontinence can be caused by over-concentrated urine irritating your bladder wall.
Cut down on drinks containing caffeine (tea, coffee, cola, chocolate), especially in the evening. Caffeine is a diuretic – that is, it makes you need to pass urine more often.
Avoid becoming constipated.
Some drugs may cause incontinence. If you think this may be the case, discuss it with your doctor, as there may be alternative drugs available or it may be possible to alter the dose. Do not stop taking any drugs without consulting your doctor.
If your problem is nocturnal enuresis, you may find that an enuresis alarm is helpful. Contact your GP or the nurse continence advisor.
If you are prone to cystitis, avoid anything that triggers an attack and treat attacks promptly.
Do pelvic floor exercises. Tighten your back passage as if you are trying to stop passing wind; now tighten the muscles around the base of your bladder as if you are trying to stop yourself passing urine. In both cases, count to four and let go. Repeat at least four times a day.