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The stigma of living with urinary incontinence

Urinary Incontinence Stigma

The stigma of living with urinary incontinence

The NHS estimates that between 3 to 6 million people in the UK live with some degree of urinary incontinence.

Among the millions of people living with urinary incontinence, it is said that women are five times more likely to develop urinary incontinence than men.

As common as this may sound, many sufferers struggle to talk about their condition, finding the topic of bowel and bladder dysfunction too distressing to discuss. The silent burden of incontinence can seriously affect one’s overall quality of life, leading to feelings of shame, embarrassment and fear. Some sufferers may avoid treatment altogether, risking the increased chances of poor kidney health.

Understanding urinary incontinence

Urinary incontinence happens when you cannot control your bladder and you pass urine unintentionally. It is not considered a disease in itself but is often the result of an underlying medical condition.

On the NHS.uk site, four common types of urinary incontinence are listed, namely stress incontinence, urge incontinence, overflow incontinence and total incontinence. The site also mentions mixed incontinence, referring to a mixture of both stress and urge urinary incontinence. In addition, American sites like the Mayo Clinic tend to include functional incontinence as well. Functional incontinence refers to a physical, mental or environmental issue preventing you from going to the toilet in time.

A range of issues can cause urinary incontinence, including weakening of the muscles and nerves that help the bladder to hold and pass urine, obstruction to the bladder, spinal injury, certain medications and even smoking. In the article ‘Can smoking contribute to urinary incontinence?’, we examine the impact of smoking on urological health, follow the link to read the full article if you would like to know more.

As urinary incontinence is thought to affect 3 to 6 million people in the UK and considering many still feel embarrassed talking about it, we would like to highlight why the stigma of urinary incontinence is largely unfounded.

There shouldn’t be a stigma

Urinary incontinence is a natural and understandable condition that will affect nearly everyone at some point in his or her life. Symptoms can range in severity from small leakages to complete emptying of the bladder, but with the right medical help it can be managed and controlled.

Despite this, many sufferers feel alone, believing that their symptoms prevent them from living life to the fullest. Social situations or even just leaving the house can become a scary concept when worrying about what most people might say having “accidents”. Social isolation is common among incontinence sufferers, often leaving them with feelings of hopelessness, sadness and shame. The truth is, the stigma attached to this condition is often worse than the actual symptoms.

Famous people living with urinary incontinence

Urinary incontinence can affect anyone including celebrities. Reality TV personality Kris Jenner, singer Katy Perry and Academic award winner Kate Winslet are some of the celebrities who have spoken publicly about the lack of bladder control.

Nadia Sawalha, one of the panellists on Loose Women, said in a 2016 interview that she suffers from stress incontinence after giving birth to her children. Stress incontinence is the most common type of incontinence where a small amount of urine leaks when your bladder is under stress or pressure when you are doing an activity like running, or when you are launching, coughing or sneezing. She pointed out, “… talking about experiencing incontinence was hard. Women will talk about their periods, sex life, but not this. It’s one of the last taboos.” She wanted to change that by talking about it openly and hopefully “it will encourage others to open up”. We commend her honesty and keenly believe that talking about it will lead to positive actions. In fact, once you start the conversation, chances are you will find the right solution to manage the symptoms.

It isn’t just women celebrities that have spoken about it. Famous men like Stephen King and Samuel L. Jackson are also honest about living with urinary incontinence. The upshot of it is that millions of people are living with urinary incontinence and any stigma associated with it is largely unfounded.

There is hope

One of the best mantras for living with incontinence is ‘you are not alone’. Seeking help and assessment is the foundation of incontinence care. Moreover, there are management plans, medical products, as well as support groups which will help you to regain control over your quality of life.

Depending on medical conditions and personal needs, different courses of action are available. The NHS.uk site talks about making lifestyle changes, doing pelvic floor exercises and bladder training to treat urinary incontinence. You may also benefit from medication or the use of medical products which can include:

  • Pads for women and pull-ups for men
  • Bed & chair protection
  • Catheters
  • Skincare and hygiene products
  • Specially adapted clothing

Talk to your medical provider today and discuss all options impartially, including catheters. If you would like to know more about catheters, follow the link to this post “How UroShield can help patients with urinary incontinence” which talks about remedies for urinary incontinence, the types of catheters available, and how to manage the risks of urinary tract infection from catheter use.

UroShield has helped many catheter users across the UK to prevent Catheter-Associated Urinary Tract Infections (CAUTIs). For more information about UroShield and what it can do for you, check out these articles:

Alternatively, get in touch on 020 8773 7844 or fill out our Online Form.

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