Nearly half of adults have suffered from incontinence at some point in their life – but one in three failed to seek help from a doctor.
A study of 2,000 adults found that sufferers are either too embarrassed to seek medical attention, don't think it's a major problem, or think it will just go away.
Nearly four in 10 (38 per cent) simply put up with it as they feel it’s a usual symptom of ageing, while a fifth of women consider it something that is a normal post-childbirth.
As a result, only 52 per cent would talk to friends or family about their issues, while 31 per cent have never spoken to a health expert.
Four in 10 of those were worried it wasn’t a problem serious enough to warrant professional help, while 17 per cent thought they could treat it themselves or that it would eventually ‘go away’.
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But more than a quarter (28 per cent) were simply too embarrassed to seek help, according to the study by TENA.
Worryingly, 55 per of sufferers admitted they have also been less inclined to talk to a health professional during the pandemic, as they didn’t want to be a burden on the health system.
Mum of two, Dr Emily MacDonagh, who is working with TENA, said: “Contrary to popular belief, incontinence isn’t something that only affects the elderly, or women who have had children – although this is common – it can affect anyone at any stage of life.
“Although it may feel daunting, I would urge incontinence sufferers to take that initial leap and seek help from their GP or Bladder and Bowel UK.
“They are experts and are there to provide effective treatment that can help to change your life for the better.
“Though incontinence sometimes feels like a ‘taboo’ subject to talk about, there really isn’t anything to be embarrassed about and we hope the TENA campaign will show sufferers that they shouldn’t feel they have to simply put up with the condition or suffer in silence.”
The research found more than half of sufferers have dealt with embarrassing after-effects following a sneeze, while 34 per cent struggled through exercise.
While one in four were left feeling ashamed after a bout of incontinence struck them when simply walking.
The average age for people to encounter urinary incontinence for the first time was revealed to be 39 years old – but 23 per cent suffered symptoms before they turned 25.
But more than a third said they were unable to fully enjoy life as a result of urinary incontinence, with the average sufferer experiencing incontinence a few times a week.
Three in 10 have to plan toilet stops when travelling, while more than one in 10 avoid anything where they have to stay sitting down for long periods, such as going to the cinema.
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And another tenth have sadly drifted apart from friends, who don’t suffer from the same affliction.
As a result, more than one in five of those polled via OnePoll, are worried about life returning to normal now lockdown restrictions are easing.
However, the good news is those who have sought treatment from their GP for incontinence said they felt relieved (48 per cent), more confident (41 per cent) and like themselves again (32 per cent).
Karen Irwin, specialist nurse at Bladder & Bowel UK, who is working alongside TENA to help further raise awareness of bladder and bowel issues, said: “We would encourage people with incontinence issues to step forward, seek professional help and advice and not self-manage, or suffer in silence.
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“Much can be done to treat and manage symptoms, with specialist NHS bladder, bowel and pelvic floor services available for management and treatment.
“We can also provide support and advice to those who suffer with incontinence themselves or care for someone who does.
“We hope the TENA campaign will help open the door for more discussions between friends and families, raise awareness of the issue, ease the embarrassment and help to erase the stigma associated with the condition.”
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