Incontinence is usually a symptom of an underlying medical or physical condition such as:
- Urinary tract infections
- Weak bladder and pelvic floor muscles
- Parkinson’s disease
However, the causes of incontinence can vary in both men and women.
If you are concerned about the cause of your incontinence, you should always seek advice from your GP, Medical Specialist, Continence Nurse Advisor, or Physiotherapist so they can help you find and treat the underlying cause.
To speak to a Continence Nurse Advisor, call the National Continence Helpline on 1800 33 00 66.
When and how you experience urinary incontinence can depend on the type of incontinence you experience, for instance:
- Urge incontinence: when you experience an intense and sudden urge to empty your bladder and are unable to delay passing urine until you reach the toilet.
- Stress incontinence: when you leak urine when your bladder comes under stress or pressure, for example sneezing, coughing or heavy lifting and exercise.
- Mixed incontinence: when you experience both symptoms of urge and stress incontinence.
- Overflow incontinence: when your bladder does not empty completely when you pass urine, giving the sensation that you cannot full empty your bladder when using the bathroom.
- Total incontinence: when you consistently pass both small and large amounts of urine throughout the day and even during the night-time.
Facts about incontinence and urinary leakage
Over 4.8 million or 21% of all Australians experience some form of Urinary Incontinence in their lifetime, affecting up to 22% of men and 60% of women. Incontinence effects both men and women of all ages, although it is more common in older age groups. Although the symptoms of incontinence can often be embarrassing difficult to manage for some, the most important fact to remember is that urinary incontinence is both treatable and manageable.
You should always speak to your GP if your urinary leakage is a new problem, you are experiencing an increase in your usual leakage pattern, or if you have any discomfort, pain, or see any blood when you pass urine. If your urinary leakage begins to affect your social life or everyday activities, you can seek help from either your GP, Continence Nurse Advisor or Physiotherapist. While you are working on solving the cause of your urinary incontinence you can choose an incontinence product from the Depend range to keep yourself clean and dry.
Finding the right incontinence help and information for you
Urinary Incontinence affects both men and women, but the underlying causes are quite different. Whilst there are many underlying medical conditions, for the majority these are:
- Female Incontinence: pregnancy, childbirth and menopause can weaken a woman’s muscle structure.
- Male Incontinence: the main factor stems from prostate enlargement.
More About Incontinence
Remember, you are not alone there are 4.8 million Australians who have Urinary Incontinence. Most people find their urinary leakage distressing, but with the right advice and information it’s something that can be easily managed.
Start by reading the sections below, which outlines some of the commonly experienced types and causes of bladder leakage. This information also increases your knowledge about the treatments that may be available to you. By increasing your understanding, you will feel more confident when you speak with your trusted GP or health practitioner.
The risk factors for incontinence
There are certain risk factors that may increase your chances of experiencing urinary incontinence.
Some of these factors are:
- Being constipated: Constipation has a direct effect on your ability to empty your bladder fully or the urgent feelings to urinate
- Being overweight: Many studies have linked obesity to urinary incontinence. The extra weight especially around your abdomen puts additional pressure on your bladder and can cause leakage events.
- Smoking: A persistent smokers cough increases the pressure on your pelvic floor muscles causing you to leak urine. (This is known as stress incontinence.)
- Pregnancy and life changes: Traumatic or prolonged vaginal deliveries can disrupt the muscles and nerves use to control the bladder. Menopause can change the moisture levels in the vagina and urethra preventing proper closure of the bladders exit valves.
- Older People: In the latter stages of life you are more likely to experience physical changes and chronic health issues. These changes can contribute to the development of urinary incontinence.
- Drinking Alcohol: Alcohol increases the amount of urine you produce and can cause the muscles around the bladder to relax, both of which can increase bladder leakage.
Obtaining the correct diagnosis is an important first step to take before you your health professional can advise any treatment. To give your health professional the best possible information, go to Treatments for Incontinence to obtain examples and instructions on how to collect this vital information.
When you see the doctor or nurse, they may choose to perform a bladder ultrasound or physical examination to assess the strength of a women’s pelvic floor muscles or the size of the man’s prostate.
Managing urinary incontinence
The first thing you should know is that every type of urinary incontinence is treatable. Urinary incontinence is something that you shouldn’t feel embarrassed talking to your GP about. The chances are you have many friends with the same problem so talk to them and encourage each other to seek help. Regardless of your incontinence type start by doing regular pelvic floor exercises. These simple exercises can be done anywhere and at any time. You do not have to join a gym and you can do them surrounded by people who would never know you were busy doing these exercises.
Treating and controlling urinary incontinence
There are several different ways that incontinence can be managed and controlled, which usually depend on the type of incontinence that you experience. However, generally treatment for urinary incontinence can consist of:
- Pelvic floor exercises
Doing exercises such regular pelvic floor exercises will help lessen the severity of your incontinence and improve the reliability of your bladder. Visit our pelvic floor exercises to obtain examples and instructions on how to perform pelvic floor exercises and other incontinence treatments or speak to a Continence Physiotherapist or Continence Nurse Advisor. These allied health professionals can personally guide you. Call the National Continence Helpline on 1800 33 00 66, they can provide you with the names of your local Continence Physiotherapist or Continence Nurse Advisor.
Depend products can offer you a simple way to protect yourself from any social embarrassment. The first trick is to be prepared, carry a spare incontinence product, usually in the form of absorbent guards or underwear specifically designed for urinary incontinence (Depend has a wide variety of incontinence products that you may like to look at).