Living With Incontinence

If you, or a dependent, suffer from any form of incontinence, seek treatment as soon as possible. Speak to your GP to determine the origin of the incontinence and the best programme of treatment.

Whilst undergoing treatment for incontinence, there are many techniques and products available to improve your quality of life. Some of which are available on prescription.


Lifestyle Changes to Help You Live with Incontinence

These lifestyle changes aim to make you more resilient to episodes of incontinence:

  • The 'Quick Flick' technique (for urinary incontinence) - When you feel the urge to urinate, the 'Quick Flick' technique can be applied. Contract the pelvic floor muscles quickly 3-5 times, taking slow deep breaths whilst you do so. This should reduce the need to urinate so you can hold off going to the toilet for longer intervals.
  • 'The Knack' manoeuvre (for urinary incontinence) - When you are about to cough or sneeze, apply 'The Knack' manoeuvre. This is the conscious contraction of the pelvic floor muscles before and during your bladder being put under stress. This prevents the urethra and bottom of the bladder from descending which can lead to incontinence. You may need supervision and training to learn how to make this most effective. When done correctly, it is proven to be 98.2% effective with a medium cough and 73.3% with a particularly deep cough.
  • Diet changes (for urinary incontinence) - Avoid foods and drinks which act as diuretics, causing your kidneys to produce more urine. This includes avoiding caffeine and alcohol.
  • Diet changes (for bowel incontinence) - Review your diet to make sure you reduce your risk of developing diarrhoea or constipation.
  • Ask for support - If you are suffering from functional incontinence, as a result of a physical or psychological issue preventing you from using the bathroom, ask for support. This can be to improve the accessibility of the bathroom or for a carer to be regularly available for you to use it.
  • Wear easy to remove clothing - If clothing has become a barrier, due to an issue with undoing buttons and zips on trousers for example, there are garments available that are easy to remove and put back on. They are often elasticated and lightweight.
  • Sex and incontinence - Read our page on coital urinary incontinence to see our recommendations of how to enjoy sex while suffering from incontinence.
  • Toilet visits (for flatus incontinence) - If you suffer from uncontrollable wind (flatus incontinence), you may find visiting the toilet often to expel gas, can reduce the risk of passing gas in from of friends and colleagues. Avoid sitting on the toilet and urinating at the same time - as you can inadvertently train yourself to have the urge to urinate more often, even when you don't have a full bladder.

If you have any advice on how to stop incontinence from slowing you down, let us know by emailing [email protected].


Products to Help You Live with Incontinence

Incontinence products can improve your quality of life, and can be used as a short term solution to incontinence whilst you treat the original causes:

  • Vaginal pessary (women only) - These silicone or rubber devices are fitted high into your vagina to support your bladder, urethra and other pelvic organs. They are useful in preventing incontinence when you laugh or cough, by reducing the effect of the intra-abdominal pressure. There are different pessaries available to suit different severities of incontinence, whether you are also suffering from a Pelvic Organ Prolapse and if you are sexually active. To learn more about pessaries, visit our page, Pessaries for Pelvic Organ Prolapse.
  • Mattress and chair covers - There are a variety of mattress covers produced, including waterproof and absorbent covers.
  • Pads and absorbent underwear - Both reusable and disposable underwear is available to absorb liquid (both urine and liquid stools). They have a hydrophobic layer which draws the liquid into the pad away from your skin. Suitable for urinary incontinence and mild bowel incontinence.
  • Skincare and hygiene products - To protect the skin around your urethra and anus from the effects of leaks, there are a range of products which reduce irritation and soreness.
  • Catheters and penile sheaths - If you suffer from overflow incontinence and often find it difficult to fully empty your bladder, you can use an intermittent catheter or penile sheath to drain your bladder.
  • Specially adapted clothing - If you suffer from functional incontinence, as you find it difficult to remove your clothes in time to reach the toilet, then you may benefit from more easily removable clothing. Usually elasticated and lightweight, these items can be taken off without needing to undo any buttons or zips.
  • Tampons (for urinary incontinence) - It may seem odd, but wearing a large tampon in your vagina can put pressure on the neck of the bladder to stop leaks. However, they should not be used as a routine solution.
  • Anal plugs (for bowel incontinence) - Made of foam with a string for removal (similar to a tampon), these plugs can be worn for up to 12 hours. When you would usually leak, the moisture causes the plug to expand to prevent you from soiling. They are often preferred over pads which do not prevent great amounts of leakage or the associated smell.
  • Single-use silicone anal inserts (for bowel incontinence) - These form a seal around the anus and can remain in place until the next bowel movement. Studies are ongoing into their effectiveness for moderate to severe bowel incontinence.
  • FREE 'Just Can't Wait' card and iOS app - Available online from the Bladder and Bowel Support Company. The plastic debit card sized card and iOS app can be used to discreetly communicate your urgent need to find a toilet when you are out and about. The app even has a map, showing you the location of your nearest toilet.

Speak to your GP about which products are available on prescription.


Sources

Al-Shaikh, G. Syed, S. Osman, S. Bogis, A. Al-Badr, A. (2018). International Journal of Women's Health. Pessary use in stress urinary incontinence: a review of advantages, complications, patient satisfaction, and quality of life. [online] 10(1), p195-201. [viewed 23/04/18]. Available from: https://www.dovepress.com/pessary-use-in-stress-urinary-incontinence-a-review-of-advantages-comp-peer-reviewed-article-IJWH

Bladder and Bowel Support Company (2014). Factsheet: Faecal Incontinence. [online] Bladder and Bowel Community, 2014. [viewed 25/04/18]. Available from: https://www.bladderandbowel.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/BBC017_Faecal-Incontinence.pdf

Bladder and Bowel Support Company (2018). FREE Just Can’t Wait Toilet Card. [online] Bladder and Bowel Community, 2018. [viewed 27/04/18]. Available from: https://www.bladderandbowel.org/help-information/just-cant-wait-card/

Carter, D. (2014). Gastroenterology. Conservative treatment for anal incontinence. [online] 2(2), p85-91. [viewed 26/04/18]. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4020129/#__ffn_sectitle

Gonçalves Correia, S. (2008) Urinary incontinence and overactive bladder in the non-institutionalized Portuguese population: national survey and methodological issues.[online] Faculdade de Medicina da Universidade do Porto [viewed 19/04/18] Available from: https://repositorio-aberto.up.pt/bitstream/10216/21944/5/MEpiscorreia200811Tese.pdf

Maternik, M. Krzeminska, K. Zurowska, A. (2015). Pediatric Nephrology (Berlin, Germany). The management of childhood urinary incontinence. [online] 30(1), p41-50. [viewed 24/04/18]. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4240910/#!po=59.3750

NHS Trust. (2016a). Urinary incontinence: Incontinence products. [online] NHS Trust, 2016. [viewed 18/04/18] Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/urinary-incontinence/incontinence-products/

NHS Trust. (2016b). Urinary incontinence: Overview. [online] NHS Trust, 2016. [viewed 18/04/18] Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/urinary-incontinence/

Price, N. Dawood, R. Jackson, S. R. (2010). Maturitas. Pelvic floor exercise for urinary incontinence: A systematic literature review. [online] 67(4), p309-315. [viewed 16/04/18]. Available from: https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/bd40/19fc898987cfb343c6652205837f92029039.pdf

Royal College of Nursing. (2016a). Barriers to maintaining continence. [online] Royal College of Nursing, 2016. [viewed 23/04/18]. Available from: https://rcni.com/hosted-content/rcn/continence/barriers-maintaining-continence

Royal College of Nursing. (2016b). Causes of incontinence. [online] Royal College of Nursing, 2016. [viewed 23/04/18]. Available from: https://rcni.com/hosted-content/rcn/continence/causes-of-incontinence

Royal College of Nursing. (2016c). Interventions/treatment. [online] Royal College of Nursing, 2016. [viewed 23/04/18]. Available from: https://rcni.com/hosted-content/rcn/continence/interventionstreatment