Updated 25 July 2016

10 things you didn’t know about urinary incontinence

It's so common yet no-one ever talks about it. Here are 10 things you should know about urinary incontinence.


It is as common as hay fever or grey hair, yet no-one talks about it. And that means there’s a lot of misunderstanding on the topic of incontinence. Here are some things you probably don’t know:

1. Urinary incontinence (UI) is more common in South Africa than HIV/Aids – it affects about 5.2-million women and 2.4-million men.

2. It’s not just a problem for senior citizens; it affects people of all ages, from all walks of life. But it can be very effectively managed through a combination of prevention, rehabilitation, medical treatment, and the use of specially developed protection products.

3. There are a number of different types of incontinence, and each needs a different management approach, so it’s vital to get a diagnosis from someone qualified in this area.

4. Even if you are leaking a few drops of urine here or there, you still have incontinence. No bladder leakage is normal, so it’s vital you see an incontinence specialist.

5. Twice as many women as men suffer from UI. On average, bladder weakness affects one in four women, and one in eight men. Men are often in denial and so fail to cope with symptoms, with many waiting months before seeking professional advice from a GP. 

6. Obesity is the single most modifiable risk factor when it comes to managing bladder weakness. Excess body weight puts strain on your pelvic floor, so maintaining a healthy weight through good eating habits and regular physical exercise can result in improved bladder control.

7. Both drinking too much and drinking too little can make managing UI difficult. Forget the eight glasses of water a day theory; rather monitor your fluid intake by keeping an eye on your urine. If it’s dark, you’re not drinking enough. If it’s colourless, you’re drinking too much. It should be a pale straw colour.

8. Your diet can affect your bladder control, as some foods are bladder irritants. These include alcohol, caffeine, dairy products, sugar, sweeteners, corn syrup, honey, citrus fruits, tomato-based foods and spicy foods.

9. Sanitary towels are not good to use to contain any urine leakage, as they are designed to absorb blood, not urine. TENA’s purpose-designed products will protect your skin and offer the best protection against leakage and odour.

10. Incontinence products aren’t all adult nappies! There’s a whole range of tailor-made products available in different absorbencies, from discreet pads the size of pantyliners and products that look like underwear through to diapers for those with heavy incontinence problems.

For advice please call us on 0860 673 377. Visit TENA for more information or to order a free sample.


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Prenevin Govender completed his MBChB at the University of Cape Town in 2001. He obtained his Fellowship of the College of Urologists in 2009 and graduated with distinction for a Masters in Medicine from the University of Cape Town in 2010. His special interests include laparoscopic, pelvic organ prolapse and urinary incontinence surgery. He consults full-time at Life Kingsbury Hospital in Claremont.

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