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A wee problem.

Byline: SUZY GREAVES

INCONTINENCE is still considered one of those yukky problems that no one mentions. Many of us believe it's just old ladies who suffer. Well, it's not. Men and women of any age can experience leakage and there are some three million sufferers in Britain.

Causes range from infections and caffeine sensitivity to simply having bad bladder habits.

It's more common in women than men and a staggering four out of every 10 women have been incontinent at some time in their lives.

Sadly, it seems most of us put up with it. A recent survey found that a quarter of women wait at least five years before going to their doctor - a scary statistic when you know that in 70 per cent of cases it can be cured.

Types of incontinence:

1STRESS INCONTINENCE: Leaking urine when you cough, laugh, sneeze, jump or bend over. This occurs when the muscles at the neck of the bladder are not strong enough to hold the urine in. Stress incontinence is thought to be caused by childbirth or the menopause, when your pelvic muscles become less efficient.

WHAT TO DO: Cross your legs! If you feel a cough or sneeze coming on. Studies found it helped prevent leakage in 73 per cent of women.

Pelvic floor exercises: It can take a few months before you notice the difference, but 40 per cent of women are cured after six months. For advice, call The Continence Foundation Helpline: 020 7831 9831.

Vaginal cones: You insert a specially-made cone (available from chemists) and hold it by contracting your pelvic muscles. In studies, 44 per cent of women were cured after using vaginal cones 20 minutes a day for six months.

2URGE INCONTINENCE: You feel the sudden need to pass urine desperately. It is caused by either hypersensitivity of the bladder so that if feels full when it's not or weak pelvic muscles which cause the bladder to contract when it should be holding more.

WHAT TO DO: Check for cystitis: If it burns when you go to the toilet, see your GP.

Cut out caffeine: Tea, coffee and cola encourage hyperactivity of the bladder muscle.

Retrain your bladder: This is based on passing urine by the clock at regular intervals. Try this training programme:

Days 1 and 2: Choose an interval you feel fairly confident you can achieve, such as 90 minutes. Continue this for two days.

Days 3 and 4: Increase the interval between emptying by 15 minutes for two days.

Day 5 onwards: When you are comfortable with the extra 15 minutes, increase it again. As each interval becomes manageable, increase it again until you're at a stage where you can control your bladder normally.

Not just a female problem...

The usual cause of incontinence for men is a blockage at the outlet of the bladder due to an overgrowth of the prostate gland.

WHAT TO DO: Visit your GP who will check the cause and can give you drugs to relieve the problem, or even suggest surgery.

For a copy of Your Prostate and You, send a large SAE to The Continence Foundation Orders Department, 307, Hatton Square, 16 Baldwin Gardens, London EC1N 7RJ.

Natural solutions:

Inurin - a supplement containing a blend of herbs that help weak bladders, including pumpkin seeds, sweet sumach and white popular and bioflavonoids. Costs pounds 9.95 for one month's supply. Call 01473 667 443.

Agrimony Tea - a specially formulated herbal tea to help bladder problems. It contains the herbs smooth sumach, agrimony and horsetail. Costs pounds 9.95. Call Hellenia on 01765 692299.

Visit www.embarrassingproblems.co.uk
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Title Annotation:M Health
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jan 15, 2004
Words:603
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