Breaking the Taboo: Double Incontinence… and How You Can Tackle the Problem
Urinary incontinence is a well-documented problem. It’s also one of the most common health complaints among the over 60s, affecting between 3 to 6 million people in the UK alone, and around a quarter of older people in total.
Less commonly discussed is the problem of bowel incontinence, which is the involuntary release of faecal matter. Indeed, it’s still something of a taboo, perhaps due to the fact that it is less common, and only affects around 1.4% of the UK population to a significant degree. However, it does affect a larger number of older people.
The Ultimate Taboo: Double Incontinence?
Even less common, and considered so taboo that that many people don’t even know of its existence, is double incontinence.
Double incontinence refers to the combination of both urinary and bowel incontinence, leaving the sufferer unable to exert control over the release of urine or faeces. As you can imagine, this can be highly difficult, not to mention traumatic, for the person involved.
Wendy, a patient featured on Channel 4’s Embarrassing Bodies, discusses her experience with double incontinence, claiming that it ‘feels humiliating because human beings go to the loo in the toilet not when you’re just going around doing things. My bowels are just ruling my life.’
Seeking a Way Out
If you suffer with this condition, then it’s important to realise that it is nothing to be embarrassed by. It’s also important to note that treatment is available, which can greatly improve your symptoms or even clear them up entirely.
Here’s just a few suggestions that your doctor might make:
- Bladder / Bowel training. If your symptoms are mild to moderate, your doctor may recommend embarking on a training programme, designed to help improve the strength of your muscles in the affected area.
- Dietary changes. In milder cases, symptoms may be improved by making some changes to your diet. For example, high fibre foods will help bulk out your stools, causing them to move more slowly through your digestive system. Avoiding certain foods, such as caffeine, alcohol and dairy products, may also help.
- If your problem is more moderate to severe, your doctor may recommend trying some medication to control the symptoms. This might take the form of anti-diarrhoea medicine to slow the passage of the stools in the body, for example.
- In extreme instances, surgery may be recommended, in order to relieve the symptoms. Exactly what surgery you’ll be recommended depends largely on the extent of your double incontinence. Tape or sling procedures, designed to reduce pressure on the bladder, are fairly common, or alternatively, you may be recommended an implantable device, which stimulates the nerves controlling the muscles you use to hold in urine or faeces.
Start the Journey to Recovery
If you suffer with double incontinence, it’s vital to remember that you are not alone. Although it isn’t discussed very often, double incontinence does affect a number of people in the UK, and the good news is, there’s a variety of treatments available to help you.