What is Incontinence?



Continence is defined as the ability to collect, store and eliminate urine without excretion difficulties. The age at which continence is achieved varies from individual to individual. In children, the ability to achieve continence is determined when they can distinguish between the storage and emptying phases.

Achievement of night-time control may prove more challenging and for some people may never be fully acquired. Living with incontinence can be both challenging and exhausting for many people. This symptom-based disorder has many effects that are often not visible, but curtail quality of life and impede health outcomes.

Generally, the physical effects are non-life-threatening, however the sequelae of falls, urinary tract infections and delirium may precipitate a life-shortening event. Psychologically, the effects may include depression, social isolation and embarrassment.

The effects are likely to impact not only on the person, but with families and carers as well. Incontinence is a common problem that affects millions of people worldwide. It occurs across the lifespan irrespective of age or gender. However, particular cohorts within populations are more susceptible or at risk than others.

Evidence is limited in regards to Indigenous and culturally linguistically diverse populations. However, while some cohorts are more at risk than others, Additional research is required to understand prevalence rates more comprehensively.

Current statistics within the literature identify that in Australia, approximately 1 in 166 people under 65, 1 in 14 people over 65, and 1 in 4 people aged over 85 experience a degree of incontinence. These statistics clearly show that age-related changes are likely to be a significant risk factor for incontinence.

Incontinence can often be cured or managed with correct diagnosis or identification of the type of incontinence, which allows the person to live their life to the fullest.

CPD time2m
First Published14 August 2019
Updated13 August 2019
30 August 2027
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