Urinary incontinence is extremely common but rarely talked about. There are two types of urine leakage: stress incontinence and urge incontinence. Dr Joe Kosterich talks about causes of urinary incontinence, such as pregnancy or dementia, and ways of preventing and managing urinary incontinence.


Video transcript

Urinary incontinence videoHi, I’m Doctor Joe, and today were going to be talking about a topic that still remains pretty much under the covers and hidden – a topic that you don’t necessarily hear talked about at parties but is extremely common. That topic is urinary incontinence.

Now what do we mean by that? It means that literally there is some leakage of urine. There are two ways in which this can happen. One is called stress incontinence, and that’s typically if there is pressure on the abdomen or, for example, jumping on trampolines. Or even things like playing tennis – you’ll often hear people saying they can leak a few drops of urine.

The second type is called urge incontinence. That’s when you feel the need to go, you really need to go, and if people don’t go to the toilet when they feel they have to go, literally they might start to lose some urine. So it’s not like the average person who can hold on for a period of time.

Again, one of the things with urinary incontinence is that it has been hidden. It’s not a hot topic of dinner party conversation; it’s not the sort of thing people will say, “Oh, guess what I’ve got!” It’s the sort of thing people rightly or wrongly don’t want to talk about with their friends. It’s one of these ones that are hidden, but it has been very common.

It is something that can be triggered after childbirth and that’s probably one of the more common causes of urinary incontinence in women. And, in fact, the condition is more common in women than in men. That comes about not just because of childbirth itself but quite possibly due to damage or strain on the pelvic muscles, at or around the time of childbirth. Up until recently it was almost accepted as a given. You would hear mothers of one generation tell their daughters, “Well, dear, that’s just what you’ve got to expect. There’s not much you can do about it.”

There’s a lot that can be done about it and we’ll be talking about that in a separate video. The thing to do first of all is to recognise that there is an issue and it can be treated. Prevention where possible is better than cure, and certainly now with childbirth there is a lot of emphasis on pelvic floor exercises after giving birth. It’s one of these sorts of things were women can think, “Ah well, I’ll just do it later,” but it is a really important thing to do.

There is another whole area of incontinence that comes on later in life and that can be associated with dementia and conditions like Alzheimer’s. That of course isn’t as easily treated, but there are also things that can be done to help those people and there are a number of products available, including pads and other incontinence devices that mean if somebody has become demented or lost the capability to control their bladder, they can still have a reasonable degree of dignity. That’s both for people if they’re in residential facilities or for people who are still living at home or with family, where relatives may seem to notice something astray with the water works.

To sum up, urinary incontinence is very common. There is a lot of it out there – it’s not something you hear about, but it doesn’t mean it’s not there. There are some fairly simple things that you can do and we will be talking about that in the next video. Recognising that it is an issue and not something you have to live with as perhaps your mother or grandmother might have said is the first important step.

Urinary incontinence video To watch the next video on managing incontinence, see Urinary Incontinence: Management.

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