Updated 02 June 2017

Here's why incontinence is no laughing matter

During World Continence week we take a look at why you should never laugh at somebody who is suffering from incontinence.


This year's World Continence Week is June 19th-25th. The theme, Incontinence: No laughing matter, tackles a common response by people to laugh off incontinence, accepting it as an inevitable part of childbirth or ageing, not a health issue requiring specialist treatment.

How many times have so many of us laughed off those little accidents that we may have had……the sneeze that caught us out, the joke that made us laugh a little harder than we would have felt comfortable with, that dreaded sensation of a warm trickle of urine….not being in control of when and where we pee.

What many people don’t realise is that incontinence itself is not a disease but a symptom. Bladder and bowel problems will not go away by themselves. It is not normal to leak urine involuntarily.  Incontinence is not a normal part of the ageing process…maybe having a smaller bladder capacity is, but not leaking without control.  

Yes, incontinence is not life-threatening, but it can have a profound impact on our quality of life and can lead to social isolation and loneliness.  That’s not funny. So often people opt to manage their incontinence in silence rather than talk to a healthcare professional, not realising perhaps that so much can be done to help treat the issue, depending on the cause.

Studies have found that despite regular contact with healthcare professionals, many older people conceal their urinary incontinence with one study estimating that fewer than 50% of individuals experiencing urine leakage report the problem to their health care provider.

Various studies have also been done about woman’s attitudes to their urinary incontinence; many are embarrassed and have negative feelings about it and do what they can to normalise it.  This may include reducing how much they drink and going to the toilet more frequently.  

And of course, there is the cultural aspect to consider; many cultures view urinary incontinence as an indication of being “socially incompetent” and this could have a significant impact on an individual’s self-esteem.

In the end though, it is about choice.  If Healthcare Professionals can strive to make the subject less taboo, then those conversations become less uncomfortable. If those individuals chose how they cope with their incontinence by using disposable products, then making sure they have the correct products for their needs is essential. 

TENA have a range of products to help with the different situations that people may face every day, from the light leaks to the heavier incontinence problems.  The Lady and Men’s ranges include pads that you can use with your own snug fitting underwear.  We also have “pull up” pants that feel like you are wearing your own underwear to retain a sense of normality.

For those with heavier incontinence and/or are bedridden we have TENA Flex which is a fully breathable belted product that allows for more ergonomic changing regardless of the individual’s position, providing a comfortable and discreet fit. TENA Flex minimises the need for moving and lifting, making pad changing less intrusive for the wearer and TENA Flex has been proven to reduce the risk of back strain on carers.

Whether you are using them as a “stop gap” or have incorporated them into your everyday life it is important to feel secure and confident that they will do what you ask of them to do, day and night. The right product at the right time for the right person.  

For advice on bladder weakness products, please call us on 087 359 1079.

Visit TENA for more information on our product range. You can also buy TENA products online at


Ask the Expert

Incontinence Expert

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.

Still have a question?

Get free advice from our panel of experts

The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical exmanication, diagnosis and formal advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.

* You must accept our condition

Forum Rules