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Karen Irwin, Specialist Nurse/Service Manager at Bladder & Bowel UK talks about this year’s World Continence Week (WCW).

World Continence Week is a health campaign run by the International Continence Society (ICS) every year to raise awareness of incontinence related issues. This year it takes place from the 15th – 21st June.

Bladder and bowel problems are not uncommon, affecting both males and females of all ages. Some common bladder problems include bladder leakage (incontinence), Nocturia (getting up in the night several times to pass urine), urgency (dashing to the toilet) or difficulties emptying the bladder. Some common bowel problems may include bowel leakage (faecal incontinence), urgency, constipation and difficulties emptying the bowel.

It is important not to ignore symptoms, such as blood in your wee or poo or any other unexplained significant changes in bladder and/or bowel habit. If in doubt, check it out.

People are often reluctant to come forward and present to health professionals, to seek the help and advice they need. This is commonly due to embarrassment, fear, or not realising that there are solutions to treating and optimising management of their symptoms.

Bladder and bowel problems can affect an individual in many ways, including having an impact at work, socially, psychologically and financially. Some find that bladder or bowel problems can restrict their hobbies and sport, with some people feeling they need to avoid social occasions and gatherings.

Don’t suffer in silence. Don’t put up with the problem .

So how do I access help and advice?

Firstly, speak to your GP.

The team at Bladder & Bowel UK would suggest speaking to your GP or other health professional in the first instance. They will be able to suggest the best way forward, undertake initial screening. They will then advise who to see for investigation if that is indicated or for treatment and management.

It is important to be aware that bladder and bowel health is an important component in a person’s health and wellbeing, at every stage of life.

A specialist, community-based team for bladder and bowel issues

Initial assessment, treatment, and management for bladder / bowel issues, is best undertaken by specialist health care professional, trained in bladder and bowel care.

These services, often referred to as “Bladder and Bowel Services” (or continence services), are usually based in the community consisting of a team specialist of nurses and other health care professionals e.g. physiotherapists. These professionals will spend time talking to you, finding out what are the bothersome symptoms are and will be able to put together a treatment management plan that is individual to you. Conservative treatments options may include dietary advice, lifestyle adjustments, bladder retraining, medication review/addition, pelvic floor muscle exercises, advice on products and devices, to name but a few.

Individuals experiencing more complex problems, or who have not responded to initial treatment, may be referred to further specialist services, such as urology, urogynaecology, gastroenterology, colorectal.

Where else can I go to find information to help?

The internet provides people with lots of information on bladder and bowel issues, from trusted sites like the NHS, which enable patients to educate themselves with credible reliable information. Other credible sites such as charities and organisations dedicated to this specialist area, including Bladder & Bowel UK, offer helpline advice, information and signposting to services. These services are not only there for those experiencing continence problems, but for those caring for people with these issues.

In addition to medical intervention, sometimes people need practical solutions to manage what seems like an unmanageable problem. These may include products, to enable them to remain in work, take part in sporting activities or simply to socialise and lead as normal and independent lifestyle as possible.

There are many individual product brands available to help manage bladder and bowel problems. Organisations such as Bladder & Bowel UK offer unbiased information and advice on products that are available.

How can Bladder & Bowel UK help?

Here at Bladder & Bowel UK, we can offer advice, information and practical help to individuals who are experiencing problems, alongside their families, carers and healthcare professionals. Advice is available from a dedicated team of product information staff and specialist adult and children’s nurses.

Anyone concerned by a bladder or bowel problem may contact us for help and advice. This includes the general public, relatives, carers, health and social care professionals and other groups such as teachers or organisations such as charities and support groups.

Bladder & Bowel UK helpline services also include signposting to local specialist services, product advice, generic clinical advice and support.

How can Bladder & Bowel UK be contacted?

The Bladder & Bowel UK confidential helpline is available Monday to Friday, 9.00am – 4.00pm on 0161 214 4591. We are also contactable by email:

Tag us in your World Continence Week awareness promotion on Twitter:  @bladderboweluk.



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