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One of the last health taboos in modern society is incontinence, and embarrassment about it stops many people from accessing the NHS services that can help them. But more people suffer from incontinence than asthma, diabetes and epilepsy combined and the Bladder and Bowl Foundation (B&BF) estimates that one in four of us will have a problem with our bladder control at some time and one in ten with bowel control.

Gill Turton, spokeswoman for B&BF says, 'We know many people keep their incontinence a secret, even from loved ones, for many years. Yet it's a common problem that can almost always be improved. Our confidential nurse helpline is a good starting point for anyone who's too embarrassed to see a doctor.'

Incontinence is often seen as a woman's problem, but that's not the reality. Women are more likely than men to have bladder incontinence (32 percent of females experience it compared to 13 percent of males), but men are just as likely as women to develop a bowel control problem.

It's also a myth that incontinence only happens to older people. While it's more likely, though not inevitable, that you may lose bladder control as you get older, anyone can develop symptoms, at any age. Almost five million people in the UK under the age of 24 are thought to have experienced a bladder control problem. The same number of young people have bowel incontinence too.

Almost half (45 percent) of all people with incontinence wait at least five years before they get help, according to Karen Logan, a continence nurse at Gwent Healthcare NHS Trust.

'There's a huge stigma around incontinence despite it being so common,' she says. 'I would urge anyone with symptoms to come forward as it's more than likely we can sort out the problem and improve their quality of life.' Get help if you've had a problem with incontinence for more than a few weeks.

Your GP can assess whether you have incontinence, decide which type you have, give general advice on controlling symptoms, provide information on pelvic floor exercises and bladder retraining, and give treatment with prescribed medicines.

If lifestyle changes and treatments don't solve the problem, your GP can refer you to a continence adviser or specialist. In the UK, there are over 360 NHS continence clinics, with specialist teams providing support and medical advice.

On your first visit, a continence adviser will assess you and explain your treatment options.

Advisers and physiotherapists teach pelvic floor exercises and bladder training.

To find details of your local NHS continence clinic: Call the Bladder and Bowel Foundation (B&BF) confidential helpline on 0845 345 0165.


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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The People (London, England)
Date:Mar 23, 2014
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