A female medical professional holds a clip board and smiles at a female patient. The image represents the common questions and concerns regarding Bladder and Bowel Health Issues.

Do you ever find yourself asking:

  • Am I the only person who has a bladder or bowel issue?
  • Who can I speak to about my bladder or bowel problem?
  • Do children and young people experience bladder or bowel problems?
  • Are continence products the only answer?
  • Where can I get reliable help or advice?

At Bladder & Bowel UK we are contacted by people of different ages and stages of life with a wide range of questions and concerns regarding bladder and bowel difficulties. While our team of specialist nurses and product co-ordinator are happy to respond to individual enquiries, we felt it might be helpful to address some of the more common questions we are asked. 

So who is affected with bladder and/or bowel problems?

Bladder and bowel problems are very common and can affect anyone at any stage of life. Many people find it difficult to discuss their symptoms with anyone, including their healthcare professional. However it is important to know that much can be done to treat, manage and improve issues and it is important not to just put up with symptoms, as help is available.

Your GP, practice nurse or other healthcare professional will be used to having conversations about issues that you might find difficult and should respond to you sensitively and with practical suggestions. They will also be able to refer you to the right specialist service, if they feel this is needed.

What about children?

Many children and young people are affected by bladder and bowel issues. These do not always just get better with time. The most frequently occurring problems are difficulties with toilet training, wetting in the day or at night, constipation and/or soiling.

Sometimes it is assumed that wetting, soiling, or rushing to the toilet is due to naughtiness, laziness or an inevitable part of a disability. However this is very rarely the case. Therefore, all children and young people with a bladder/bowel problem, including those who have additional needs, should be offered an assessment, support, and appropriate treatment as the issues often do not simply get better as children get older.

Bladder & Bowel UK Top tips

Seek professional help if you have symptoms.

We would always encourage people to seek professional advice and help about any bladder and/or bowel problems. Much can be done that may cure or improve the issues. Your healthcare professional should be able to offer an assessment or refer you to a specialist service. This will then help indicate the underlying cause and the most appropriate treatment or management options.

Is it to do with my age?

Bladder problems can affect children, young people, men and women of any age. It is not an inevitable part of being young, getting older or having a disability or medical condition. Therefore, please do not put up with bladder and bowel incontinence or difficulties emptying your bladder or bowel.

How do I access help?

You could talk to your GP or other healthcare practitioner, eg. practice nurse, district nurse. For children you could also contact their school nurse or health visitor. If necessary they will refer you onto the right service to offer the right support.

There are specialist bladder and bowel services for adults in most places in the UK and many areas also have specialist services for children. You may need to be referred by your healthcare professional, although some may accept self-referrals.

Alternatively, complete the Bladder & Bowel UK webform (https://www.bbuk.org.uk/enquiries/) and we may be able to offer some initial advice and will help you get in touch with a professional, who will understand and be able to offer assessment and management.

What help can these services offer me?

Bladder and bowel services offer specialist advice, assessment, treatment, management and support to adults or children and young people experiencing bladder and bowel problems. 

Examples of the types of problems that bladder and bowel services may help with include  

  • Urinary incontinence (leaking urine) or difficulty emptying the bladder.
  • Waking up more than a couple of times in the night to pass urine or wetting the bed during sleep.
  • Needing to go to the toilet more frequently or urgently than is usual.
  • Pelvic floor disorders.
  • Prostate problems.
  • Toilet training issues.
  • Constipation.
  • Faecal incontinence (soiling) or difficulty controlling bowel movements.
  • Difficulty emptying or fully emptying the bowel.
  • Difficulty getting to the toilet due to disability or another health condition.

Where will I be seen?

Bladder and bowel services usually offer clinic appointments across their NHS areas. Home visits may be arranged for people who are housebound. Your doctor or health care professional will be able to put you in contact with your local service. You can also contact Bladder & Bowel UK for information about how to access your local service.  

What will happen when I am seen?

You will be offered an assessment, to help your professional understand the bladder and/or bowel problem. You may be asked to fill in bladder and or bowel diaries before the assessment, as they will help to identify what is happening. In some cases further tests may be required. The outcome of the assessment will explained to you and the healthcare professional will then discuss the options for treatment or management with you. 

What options are there if I am not able to be fully continent?

Many continence problems are treatable, or can at least be improved. However, it is not always possible to fully treat or cure incontinence. Therefore, it may be that following a full assessment from a specialist healthcare professional, it is agreed that alternative solutions for managing incontinence are the best option in the circumstances. 

A wide range of products, devices and appliances is available. No single one will suit everyone’s needs and it is not uncommon for people to use a combination of products eg. containment pads along with aids to assist with toileting. 

Examples of the types of products available include:

  • Bedding and chair protection.
  • Bowel irrigation devices.
  • Bowel/faecal leakage management devices.
  • Catheters, which may be used with drainage bags.
  • Urinary sheaths and body worn appliances for boys and men.
  • Pelvic floor equipment.
  • Swimwear.
  • Toilets and Commodes.
  • Urinals (male and female).
  • Disposable and washable pads and pants.

It is important to remember that there are a number of options that may help cure or at least improve bladder and bowel symptoms. Therefore Bladder & Bowel UK would always recommend discussing any issues with your healthcare professional (GP, practice nurse, or health visitor or school nurse for children).   

Bladder & Bowel UK may be able to provide initial help, advice, support and information as well as signposting to services and other organisations.

We can be contacted via our web form at https://www.bbuk.org.uk/enquiries/

Find more Bladder & Bowel UK resources here: Information library for adults – Bladder & Bowel UK (bbuk.org.uk)


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