In this article
What is incontinence?
Incontinence is the involuntary and inappropriate passing of waste products from the body. Some people are incontinent of only urine or faeces; others are incontinent of both, usually known as double incontinence. Incontinence can feel incredibly isolating and can affect people socially and psychologically.
Urinary incontinence is the unintentional passing or leaking of urine. For some, a small amount of urine may escape at certain times. Others may find they cannot get to the toilet quickly enough and may empty their bladder before getting to the bathroom.
There are several different types of urinary incontinence:
- Urge incontinence.
- Stress incontinence.
- Mixed incontinence.
- Overflow incontinence.
- Nocturnal enuresis.
- Functional incontinence.
Bowel incontinence is the involuntary passing of faeces at an inappropriate time. This may include solid stool, liquid stool or intestinal mucus.
There are two main types of bowel incontinence:
- Urge incontinence.
- Passive incontinence.
What are the psychological impacts?
Those who live with urinary, faecal or double incontinence can often put off seeking support for their condition.
This may be due to embarrassment or not feeling like there is anything that can be done about it.
This leads to people feeling isolated and unable to carry on with daily tasks in case of an accident.
The National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) indicate that incontinence can cause many psychological complications, such as:
People may start to close themselves off from social and leisure activities.
Stress incontinence can be triggered by physical exercise and movement, making people avoid physical activities.
What are the social impacts?
Individuals may avoid certain social situations for fear of not being near a toilet.
Those with incontinence often will avoid social gatherings as they may be anxious about smelling or if people will notice their incontinence products.
Studies have shown that, on average, 50% of women report that they are moderately or greatly bothered by incontinence, with 27% unwilling to visit places if they’re unsure about the availability of toilets there, 31% of women say that they dress differently because of the problem, and 25% feel embarrassed about the issue.
Some may feel a lowering of sexual libido, possibly related to worrying about urinating while having sex. This can impact relationships and make partners feel closed off, as the individual may be too embarrassed to talk about it.
What are the financial impacts?
This may seem less obvious, but incontinence can be a costly affliction.
Directly, incontinence can create costs:
- Repeatedly purchasing absorbent products such as incontinence pads.
- Energy costs of having to wash clothing items repeatedly.
- Hygiene products such as intimate washes, wipes and sprays if individuals are worried about odour.
Indirectly, the feelings of isolation, anxiety and stress from incontinence can hinder an individual’s ability to go to work or feel they can progress in a career.
What are the complications?
Often in the past, healthcare and the general public have been complacent about incontinence.
It isn’t discussed often outside the confines of healthcare because of the stigma attached. Also, it isn’t a condition that is life-threatening, so it is often overlooked as a serious condition.
However, incontinence is a very personal and impactful condition as:
- It can be life-limiting in the ways already discussed.
- It can be an indication of further health complications.
- It can lead to further complications.
The complications of incontinence include:
- Disruption in sleep.
- Falls and fractures.
- Moisture Associated Skin Damage.
- Pressure wounds.
- Skin infections and rashes.