Let's talk about adult urinary incontinence

3 minute read

Relaxed looking older couple sitting on the end of their bed

Adult urinary incontinence is a common condition that affects many people, but it’s not often talked about. Here are some solutions and tips to help.

Some people find becoming incontinent worrying or embarrassing, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Bladder issues affect many people.

According to a study by the University of Birmingham about 40% of women and 10% of men are affected by the condition, so it’s quite common. Even so, many people don’t want to talk about it.


What is adult urinary incontinence?

The NHS defines incontinence as the unintentional passing of urine.

There are different types, ranging from stress (when urine leaks due to a cough or sneeze) to urge incontinence (the sudden need to go to the toilet).

Some people develop a type of incontinence where urine leaks frequently or they constantly feel the need to pass water.


Let’s talk about it

It’s a good idea to get in touch with your GP as incontinence can develop for a number of reasons. A doctor can assess symptoms, identify the cause and discuss what treatment or exercises could be of help. There is no need to feel embarrassed as doctors are used to discussing incontinence issues with their patients.

It’s also worth considering sharing any worries with a friend or relative. Aside from offering an ear to listen to any concerns and providing moral support, they may have their own experiences to share too.


What causes adult incontinence?

Research by the University of Birmingham found that the most common causes are:

  • overactive bladder – involving the frequent urge to pee
  • sphincter incompetence – when urine leaks out because of coughing or laughing
  • dementia and stroke
  • neurological disorders and long-term disabilities, including multiple sclerosis

The study suggested that up to two-thirds of women may be affected by incontinence symptoms at some time in their life, often starting around the menopause.

Whatever the cause, there are many protective products designed to deal with leaks and allow you to carry on with everyday life.


How to manage incontinence

Washable incontinence underwear can be popped in the washing machine and reused. These items are made of absorbent material, are slimline and look like normal pants or knickers. Being reusable can help cut down on costs.

Disposable incontinence products are another option, including pads attached to normal underwear with adhesive strips, or all-in-one disposable pants. For men there are a range of products that fit over the penis and collect urine into a bag strapped to the leg.

Additionally, you can buy protectors for furniture such as bed pads for sleeping at night and disposable incontinence pads for chairs.

Some people qualify for free incontinence products through the NHS. Usually this involves being referred by a doctor to a local NHS incontinence service or clinic and an individual may need to be assessed by a specialist nurse to see if they are eligible.

Alternatively, incontinence products are available from various retailers and outlets, including a range offered by Age Co.

Any form of incontinence underwear or padding should be changed regularly and disposed of or cleaned properly. Skin should be washed and carefully dried to keep it healthy and minimise the risk of infections or odours.


Bulk buying can be a good idea

Buying washable or disposable underwear and pads can be costly. One way to cut the cost is to buy in bulk. As well as making your money go further, bulk buying by phone or online can be a discreet alternative to buying products at the shops or from the chemist.

You could also consider signing up to a regular delivery service. With an Age Co incontinence subscription, for example, you’ll receive the products every month and get a 10% discount too. Find out more on our incontinence products page.


Useful exercises for incontinence

Pelvic floor exercises and bladder training can help alleviate incontinence issues and symptoms.

A GP can explain the right strengthening exercises, techniques and frequency. They will also offer advice on any medication, or even surgery, that might be suitable, depending on the cause of the incontinence.

Incontinence needn’t limit your enjoyment of life, so if you or a loved one is struggling, the best thing you can do is talk to someone about it.