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Planning Retirement Online

Embarrasing moments

October 2004 


Amazon book - Conquering bladder and prostate problems Embarrassing moments: when your bladder lets you down          

Loulou Brown tells what can be done

Bladder incontinence is still unfortunately a taboo subject and there is a great deal of ignorance surrounding it.

A weak bladder can occur for a number of reasons, including pregnancy, childbirth, obesity, constipation, nerve damage, menopause, smoker’s cough and an enlarged prostate. People who suffer bladder weakness may avoid taking exercise, walking, travelling and even sex.   Weakness of the pelvic floor muscles is often the underlying problem. 

There are three main types of bladder weakness:

?        Unexpected leakage, known as stress incontinence, which may occur through laughing, coughing, sneezing or taking exercise. Women of all ages report that laughing is the most common reason for stress incontinence.

?        Overflow, which is when the bladder does not empty completely, so that urine builds up and may eventually dribble out as though it were overflowing.

?     Urge incontinence, a strong and sudden urge to pass urine. Here, the bladder tries to empty itself in spite of efforts to restrain leakage.

And now a few statistics:

?        Bladder weakness affects over four million men and women of all ages in the UK.

?        A quarter of all women over the age of 35 have experienced bladder weakness.

?        Only 46 per cent of adults of both sexes and all ages who suffer from bladder problems talk to their GP, and most of the rest don’t seek any help if their bladders leak.

?        As many as 42 per cent of all women who are incontinent in the UK wait fifteen years before seeking treatment.

?        54 per cent of women aged 24-64 say laughing caused urine incontinence.

Well over a million people in this country use the wrong product for their particular incontinence problem. No wonder that comments such as ‘I haven’t gone out for nine years for fear of wetting someone’s chair or car seat’ are unfortunately all too common.

Amazon Book - Irritable bladder and incontinence Where to get help

Bladder weakness can often be easily treated and managed. If you visit your GP or nurse, and the problem is mild bladder incontinence, you are likely to be told to do pelvic floor exercises, sometimes known as Kegel exercises. These can help to strengthen weakened pelvic floor muscles and thus to avoid leakage.  Physiotherapists are available to teach the exercises through the NHS.

What are pelvic floor exercises?

Imagine you are trying to stop the flow of urine. You squeeze the relevant muscles for about ten seconds three times a day. Then follow with ten quick contractions. To get the feeling, you could try when actually passing urine. 

Do they work? Yes, but only if they are performed regularly. About a third of women advised to do them give up through lack of motivation.  (Men can suffer stress incontinence too, and can also benefit from pelvic floor exercises.)

New drugs and treatments

If you do give up on pelvic floor exercises, there are several new treatments becoming available. Emselex has been shown to  improve overactive bladder symptoms without causing side effects. Zuidex is a gel that can be injected into the wall of the urethra. There are hopes for a form of the antidepressant, Duloxetine, to be licensed this year.


The Continence Foundation – for general information and how to find your local clinic:

If in any doubt about any of the information covered in articles and it's relevance for you, consult your GP.


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