Incontinence – Urinary and Fecal

Focus on Disability - For Disabled People, the Elderly and their Carers in the UK

A guide to urinary and fecal incontinence coping strategies and management. Information, Advice and Sources of Help for sufferers, disabled people and the elderly.

Incontinence is a health condition that is very common. The types of incontinence are stress, urge, overflow and reflex. It can be urinary or fecal or both.

Incontinence Management

Incontinence affects several million men and women in the UK. It causes the bladder or the bowel to leak without control.

The four main types are given below:


Usually light leakage caused by weakened pelvic floor muscles. This is often triggered after childbirth or the menopause, and activities such as coughing, laughing, sneezing or physical exercise.


Usually heavy leakage caused by an inability to “hold” the bladder until you reach the toilet. Often as a result of injury to, or illness of the central nervous system, commonly related to age, medical conditions or accidents.


Mainly light to moderate leakage identified by frequent visits to the toilet but with little urine release. Often caused by an obstructed bladder due to prostate problems, or damage to either the spinal cord or the central nervous system.


Varies from light to heavy depending on the individual, who may experience no urge to visit the toilet. Reflex incontinence results from damage to either nerves, spinal cord or the brain.

What causes Incontinence

Common causes of incontinence are an over active bladder, incomplete emptying of the bladder, difficulty in getting into, or to the toilet because of a physical disability, or weak muscles around the bladder, (especially common in women after childbirth or after the menopause). Certain drugs, constipation or even urine infections can contribute to cause incontinence.

Help with Incontinence

Bladder control problems for many people can be improved or cease completely. there are medicines that your doctor can discuss with you and prescribe if appropriate, a healthy, varied diet and special regular exercise can also help.

VAT exemption

People who suffer from incontinence are eligible for VAT exemption for products purchased for personal use.


Anyone being incapacitated by incontinence is entitled to financial help from the benefits system if their incapacity fits the criteria to receive the award of that benefit.

See Benefits and Allowances for Disabled People

Incontinence Products

See Incontinence products category in the Focus on Disability Shop pages – Pads – Bedding – Books – Pelvic Muscle Exercisers and more.

Further Information and Advice

*  Your GP
*  Your Pharmacist/Chemist
*  A continence adviser  –  there are nurses or physiotherapists
who are trained in incontinence management

The Bladder and Bowel Community

(formerly the Continence Foundation and The Bladder and Bowel Foundation) is the UK’s leading organisation providing information and support for people with bladder and bowel disorders, as well as their carers, families and healthcare professionals

Helpline: 0800 031 5412
7 The Court,
Holywell Business Park
Northfield Road
CV47 0FS
Tel  01926 357220

The Cystitis and Overactive Bladder Foundation provides information and support to sufferers of bladder problems, including Interstitial Cystitis, Bacterial Cystitis, Overactive Bladder and Urge Incontinence.

Bladder and Bowel UK (formerly PromoCon): provides a national service, working as part of Disabled Living, Manchester to improve the life for all people with bladder or bowel problems by offering product information, advice and practical solutions to both professionals and the general public.
Helpline: 0161 607 8219

(Education and Resources for Improving Childhood Continence) is a national children’s health charity dealing with bedwetting, daytime wetting, constipation and soiling in children and young people. ERIC provides information, support and resources to families and health professionals on bladder and bowel problems.
Helpline: 0845 370 8008 10am-4pm , Monday-Friday
ERIC (Education and Resources for Improving Childhood Continence)
36 Old School House, Britannia Road
Kingswood, Bristol BS15 8DB
United Kingdom

Coping with Incontinence

Here are some tips on how to cope with incontinence and make life easier.

* Talk to your doctor, nurse, or continence adviser. The sooner you seek advice and support, the sooner you can regain control and enjoy your life to the full again.

* Drink fluids as you would normally, don’t cut down just because you may want to go to the toilet more often. Try to drink at least 6-8 glasses of water each day, avoiding “dark” drinks such as tea, coffee and cola.

* Eat a diet high in fibre – try to each more jacket potatoes, beans, brown rice and brown bread (rather than the white variety) and bran cereals to avoid constipation.

* Try to get the balance right – don’t hold back to long before going to the toilet and don’t make yourself go to often either, as this will make it more difficult to get back into your normal routine.

* Ensure that you wash regularly with a mild toilet soap and gently pat yourself dry with a soft towel.

* Wear clothes that are easily removable. Choose pads or briefs which have been specially designed to provide maximum absorbency, odour control and comfort.

* Give up smoking. Smoking can make you cough more often, which may make you leak more frequently

* Remember, with today’s products and treatments most people can be helped greatly to manage their condition and improve their quality of life.

Pelvic Floor Muscle Exercises

These exercises can help improve your bladder control and reduce or stop incontinence. like all muscles, the more you exercise the pelvic floor muscles, the stronger they become.

How to find your pelvic floor:

Get into a comfortable position, either standing, sitting or lying down. Imagine that you’re trying to stop yourself passing wind and at the same time trying to stop the flow of urine midstream. The feeling is one of squeeze and lift, closing and drawing up the front and back passages. It’s important to do this without pulling in your tummy, squeezing your legs together, tightening your buttocks or holding your breadth. This is a pelvic floor contraction.


* Stand, sit or lie with your knees slightly apart. Slowly tighten and pull the pelvic floor muscles as hard as you can. Hold for at least five seconds if you can, then relax (slow pull ups).

* Now pull the muscles up quickly and tightly, then relax immediately. Repeat at least five times (fast pull ups).

* Do 5 slow and 5 fast exercises ten times everyday.

* As the muscles get stronger, try and hold for longer than 5 seconds.

* You can do the exercises anywhere – sitting or standing, while watching the television or waiting for a bus, so there is no need to interrupt your daily activities.

* Some people need to continue these exercises for 3-6 months before incontinence improves – so don’t give up.