The right treatment for urinary incontinence in women can restore dignity and emotional wellbeing
There is still a belief that urinary incontinence is ‘normal’, or just a part of aging or being a parent. However, urinary incontinence is an important issue since it affects a person’s confidence, dignity, mobility, mental and emotional wellbeing, and social life. For elderly people, it may trigger the need to move to a residential care facility. Because effective treatment is available it is important that clinicians are aware of current management strategies.
Urinary incontinence affects up to 37% of Australian women. A study found that over a three-month period, 50% of women aged 45-59 years of age experienced some degree of mild, moderate or severe urinary incontinence (Millard, 1998: The prevalence of urinary incontinence in Australia, Australian and New Zealand Continence Journal).
Urinary incontinence is commonly associated with pregnancy, childbirth and neurological disease. However, it affects women of all ages, and even affects women under 30 who have never given birth.
In 2010, total health system expenditure on incontinence in the Australian population is estimated at $271 million or $57 per person with incontinence. This is projected to rise to $450 million by 2020.
Incontinence can be very isolating, may limit activities, make social life complicated, and therefore adversely affect a woman’s mental health. The shame and stigma associated with incontinence can stop women from seeking treatment because they believe the problem is a natural part of being female or is part of the ageing process. Women who live with urinary incontinence need to know that incontinence can be treated, better managed and, in many cases, cured and they don’t need to suffer in silence. Treatment for urinary incontinence includes pelvic floor therapy, non-surgical and surgical interventions depending on the type of problem and its severity.
To help primary health physicians understand more about this condition, world-renowned, first female urologist in Australia, Professor Helen O’Connell MBBS FRACS (Urol) MMed FAICD directs a course at The University of Melbourne – Mobile Learning Unit called ‘Urinary Incontinence Management in Women’. The course is 100% online and can be done in approximately 15 hours.
“We have created this course to support GPs in making sense of a pretty debilitating condition that can definitely be greatly improved or, in a lot of cases, completely resolved. That progression starts with great care in general practice,” said Prof. O’Connell.
This course is coordinated by Dr. Johan Gani from Western Health and Austin Health, and also the director of the Melbourne Bladder Clinic. He is an expert in functional urology, including female urology and neuro-urology. Professor O'Connell and Dr Gani have brought together a multi-disciplinary team of continence professionals to create this interactive course.
 Prevalence and economic impact of incontinence in Australia: Deloitte Access Economics 2010