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Here’s how to get help for incontinence

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The HARTMANN Direct team understand the difficulties faced by those who experience incontinence. It is easy to get sucked into a situation where you cope with the consequences and avoid the cause.  This reluctance to seek help may be a result of embarrassment. You may also have decided that it is a natural result of growing older.

Incontinence is neither a fact of life nor something you should ignore. It is easily treated.  Nobody should need to deal with the discomfort and embarrassment of the involuntary passing of urine or faecal matter.

Step one: writing a diary

It will help your doctor if you keep an account of your troubles over a week or so. The report will note the routine of your passing of urine or your bowel movements.  It would also help if you noted down your diet, any medication changes, and whether you have added anything to your regimen. This will help both you and your GP understand what may have triggered a change in your toilet going routines.

Step two: go to your GP

Going to the GP is an essential step because it will help you understand the cause of the problems you are facing and potentially seek a treatment. If you find the idea of going to the GP difficult, you may be able to have a conversation with the practice nurse instead.

Your GP will discuss treatment options with you, such as changing your diet and undertaking exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. If the symptoms are particularly troublesome, some medications can relieve these difficulties. You can use these to prevent the worst of the problems while you address potential causes within your lifestyle.

If none of these measures are appropriate and the doctor has concerns, they may refer you to a hospital specialist. Alternatively, they may refer you to a continence adviser for help with bladder retraining or exercises.

Step three: NHS continence clinics

You do have the option of going straight to your local continence clinic. Specialist nurses and physiotherapists will work in this clinic.  You do not need a referral from your GP to attend these clinics, and you can find out more about these clinics in your area by ringing 111. On your first visit, the adviser will go through much of the same information as you gathered in step one. You will need to talk about your lifestyle and your routines. The incontinence adviser can help you with bladder retraining and pelvic floor exercises as well.

An alternative: self-help strategies

If you are sure that you do not want to go to the doctors just now, you could always begin by using some self-help strategies. Although it is best to understand the underlying reasons for your symptoms fully, you can address them with some simple activities.

First, you should drink more water. This might feel counter-intuitive, especially if you are struggling with bladder problems. However, if you are dehydrated, you can cause issues with bladder infections, as well as constipation. Therefore, drinking water and avoiding alcohol and coffee will begin to help. You can also look at changing your diet.  If you keep a food diary, you should be able to work out what is triggering your discomfort and then remove these from your diet.

Although you may not feel like exerting yourself when you are struggling with bladder and bowel problems, there are many benefits from pelvic floor exercises. You could go to pilates or yoga, where you can build these muscles. Exercise will also help you maintain a healthy weight, which in turn will help you regain and retain control over your bladder and bowel.

Summary

The message we want to promote is clear: you do not have to struggle in silence with incontinence. Of course, you do not want to publicise your troubles with your bowel or bladder or both, but neither do you want to ignore the problem. You need to regain some control over your toilet habits, and most likely seek professional medical support in this quest.

Everyone at some point struggles with toilet going. As we grow older, it becomes more likely that you will experience difficulties. However, no matter your age, you need not treat the condition as a fact of life.  You can take positive steps to feel better.

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