Over 4.8 million Australians over the age of 15 (approximately 20% of the total population) have bladder or bowel control problems. Urinary incontinence affects up to 13% of Australian men (1 in 10) and up to 37% of Australian women (1 in 3). Faecal incontinence affects up to 20% of Australian men and up to 12.9% of Australian women (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report, 2006).
It is likely that the true number of people affected is much higher. Many people do not tell their doctor about their incontinence, due to embarrassment. Some people wrongly think that incontinence is a normal part of aging or that it cannot be treated. This is unfortunate, as many cases can be successfully treated or significantly improved.
What is incontinence?
Incontinence is a term that describes any accidental or involuntary loss of urine from the bladder (urinary incontinence) or bowel motion, faeces or wind from the bowel (faecal or bowel incontinence).
Incontinence is a widespread condition that ranges in severity from just a small leak to complete loss of bladder or bowel control. It can often be a sign of other health problems. Sometimes it can be cured and other times it can be managed better with the right advice or treatment.
If you are experiencing bladder or bowel control issues, you need to first seek medical advice. There is a range of management options available, and your doctor is the best person to discuss which course of action is best.
Who’s at risk?
Incontinence is not just a problem for older people, anyone at any age can develop some form of incontinence and it should not be considered normal. However, women are more prone to incontinence than men.
Most people think that incontinence is a female condition, but in fact, one in ten Australian men experience regular bladder leakage.
Men: Incontinence isn’t just a “female problem”
Incontinence can be slightly bothersome or totally debilitating.
Men are often uninformed about the issues, the chance of embarrassment keeps them from enjoying many activities, including exercising, and causes emotional distress. According to the National Association for Continence (NAFC), between 2% and 15% of men ages 15 to 64, and 5% to 15% of men over 60 who live at home have incontinence.