Incontinence is a considerably common problem faced by elderlies in Malaysia and in other parts of the world. It refers to any accidental or involuntary loss of urination or defecation. In medical terms, the lack of voluntary control of urine from the bladder is known as urinary incontinence whereas faecal incontinence is the loss control of faeces or flatus from the bowel. In fact, incontinence affects men, women and children from all ages, physical ability and background.
Here are some common signs and symptoms which you should look out for, and make an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible if these symptoms persist.
Symptoms of Bladder or Bowel Dysfunction:
- Accidental leakage of urine or faeces
- Passing small amounts of urine many times a day
- Difficulty with starting to urinate
- Urination stream keeps stopping and starting
- A burning or stinging sensation when you urinate
- Feeling of bladder is not empty after urinating
- Sudden onset of bedwetting
- Chronic constipation
Causes of Incontinence
Contrary to popular belief, incontinence is not a normal part of aging but the risk increases with age. It can happen for many reasons including constipation, diarrhea, vaginal infection or irritation. If the incontinence persists over a period of time, it may be due to damage to the nervous system from disease or injury, holding urine in too long, and having to urinate many times, often urgently (overactive bladder).
Sometimes, it may also happen for several reasons such as stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, infections (including spinal cord/ brain infections), medicine side effects or stress.
Prevention of Incontinence
In many conditions, incontinence can be prevented with a healthy lifestyle and diet. Here are some tips to keep your bladder and bowel healthy:
- Make healthy lifestyle choices (eg. don’t smoke)
- Increase fiber intake
- Practice good toilet habits (keeping a bathroom schedule)
- Physically active (increase exercises)
- Drink plenty of fluids
Though incontinence products are not a treatment for urinary or faecal incontinence, they are useful in managing the condition. Some of the incontinence products include absorbent products such as adult diapers, adult pants or underpads, handheld urinals, and catheter (a thin tube to insert into the bladder to drain urine). And, here are some tips to boost your confidence and comfort while wearing adult diapers:
- Change them regularly
- Use a barrier ointment or lotion
- Wear loose-fitting, comfortable clothes
- Wear darker clothing if you’re heading out
All in all, having urinary or faecal incontinence may be very upsetting or in some cases, embarrassing because each and everyone one of us essentially reacts differently to varied circumstances. However, please remember that you are not alone - many people are facing this condition too! You can always seek help from professional medical providers to treat and manage the condition.
The information above is meant for educational purposes only. Please seek professional advices from your healthcare providers for detailed explanations.