How common is bladder leakage?

Bladder leakage is a very common problem. According to the Bladder and Bowel Foundation around 14 million people in the UK experience regular bladder leakage. That means one in every 4 or 5 people who live in the UK have this problem.

What should I do if there is blood in my urine?

Blood in the urine is alarming but there may be a simple explanation. You must visit your GP or nurse practitioner and report this occurrence, so that any serious problems can be diagnosed and treated. If you have no other symptoms and your urine becomes clear again, you must still visit the surgery and report this. A simple urine test will identify whether or not the bleeding has resolved. Ladies, if you see blood in the toilet, just make sure you haven't started a period unexpectedly.

What should I do if I experience difficulty passing urine?

If you cannot pass urine at all, are in pain and the area over the lower abdomen is swollen, this is an emergency and you should seek medical opinion without delay. If you occasionally have difficulty passing urine which is causing you concern, you should also seek medical advice. Reasons for occasional or worsening difficulties in passing urine include constipation, a prolapse (in women) or an enlarged prostate gland (in men).

What are the different treatment options for urine leakage?

There are various treatment options including but not limited to medication, exercises, lifestyle changes and surgery. Not all are suitable for different types of incontinence therefore it is important that your symptoms are assessed to find out what is causing the leakage. Once a diagnosis is made, suitable treatment and advice will be offered.

What is incontinence?

Incontinence is the medical term for loss of urine and/or faeces which happens involuntarily. In other words, you are unable to control leakage from the bladder or bowel. Many people think 'incontinence' means that all control of the bladder and/or bowel is lost. This is not true. The loss of urine and/or stool may be very slight, but it is still called incontinence.

I've been told I've got stress incontinence, what does this mean?

Stress incontinence is leakage of urine from the bladder on exertion. Simple activities which result in leakage include picking up shopping or a child; a hearty laugh, cough or sneeze; aerobics, trampolining and running. Stress incontinence is due to weakness of the pelvic floor muscles. Contrary to what the name implies stress incontinence is not caused by emotional stress, although any leakage may cause the sufferer to be 'stressed'.

Why does stress incontinence happen?

In women, the pelvic floor muscles may be weakened as a result of childbirth, but women who have never had children can still suffer from stress incontinence. In men, these muscles may be weakened following surgery on the prostate gland.

What causes stress incontinence?

Sometimes there are several factors, but risk factors include: pregnancy; childbirth; the lowering of oestrogen levels at and following the menopause; constipation; being overweight; a chronic cough; trauma and some illnesses.

What can be done to help stress incontinence?

Regularly tightening your pelvic floor muscles will help the muscles to become stronger. This will help prevent leakage in most cases. This may help but is not an alternative for visiting your GP for more specific advice.

What is urge incontinence?

Urgency or feeling the need to pass urine fairly soon, is a normal sensation. This alerts us as to how soon we need to find a toilet and pass urine. We can normally defer this sensation to a suitable time and place. If we are unable to suppress this sensation then urge incontinence occurs. The classic symptoms associated with this problem are; having to go to the toilet to pass urine more frequently than you feel you should; waking twice or more in the night to pass urine; and experiencing urgency.

Why does urge incontinence happen?

Incontinence associated with urgency can be associated with illnesses affecting the nervous system. It may be due to the bladder muscle itself contracting when it should be relaxing and storing the urine. This is called an over-active bladder. Often the symptoms occur in an otherwise normal, healthy individual.

What can be done to help urge incontinence?

The first thing is to make sure you don’t have a bladder infection, as the symptoms can be very similar. This involves a simple urine test by the doctor or nurse. If positive, then a urine sample will be sent to the hospital for testing and to determine, if antibiotics are needed which one will work the best. Simple advice on fluid intake may also help, as may the reduction of caffeinated drinks. Strengthening the pelvic floor muscles sometimes helps to control urgency, and training the bladder to gradually hold on for longer periods is also a treatment used for these symptoms. If simple advice does not help, there are tablets which may improve your symptoms but your doctor or nurse will decide if these are necessary and suitable for you.

Can you have more than one type of incontinence?

Yes, stress and urge incontinence can occur together and this is called mixed incontinence. Some people are incontinent of both urine and faeces and they are said to be doubly incontinent.

Why do I often have to rush to the toilet to urinate after drinking coffee?

Coffee contains caffeine which is diuretic. This means it makes you produce more urine. Coffee also has the effect of making the bladder squeeze more strongly and therefore increases urgency. These effects are more noticeable in some individuals than others. Tea, chocolate and some fizzy soft drinks also contain caffeine. Try gradually replacing caffeinated drinks with water or decaffeinated drinks.

After eating asparagus, my urine smells! Why does this happen?

Asparagus is a delicately flavoured and relatively expensive vegetable, often steamed and wrapped in Parma ham or covered in Stilton cheese as a starter. It depends on your genes whether or not it makes your urine smell foul after eating it. To most of those affected, this temporary, harmless effect is worth the enjoyment of eating asparagus. About half the population experience strange smelling (and sometimes green) urine after eating asparagus

I often lose urine when I laugh or cough, why does this happen?

This is usually due to a weakness in the pelvic floor muscles, which support the bladder. The leakage is called stress incontinence.

Who can I talk to about my condition?

Initially, you should visit your GP who may refer you to a specialist Bladder and Bowel service for assessment of your symptoms. HARTMANN also recommends that your contact the Bladder and Bowel Foundation if you have any further questions on continence issues.

What should I do if I think I am incontinent?

If you do have difficulty controlling your bladder and / or bowel, do seek help. Your symptoms will be assessed and treatment options discussed. You can speak to your doctor or nurse for advice. There may be a specialist bladder and bowel service in your area and your GP may refer you to this department. Specialist nurses or physiotherapists usually manage this facility and have the skills to assess, treat or refer to other specialist consultants.