7 myths about urinary incontinence explained

Urinary incontinence is surprisingly common, by 2010, there were around 4.2 million people in Australia ages 15 years and over who suffer from urinary incontinence. [1] There are 200 million people worldwide currently suffering from this condition. [2]Even though it is common, it is such a taboo topic to discuss, and not much is known and understood by the general public. As a result, myths surrounding the condition are becoming more of a common knowledge.

Doctor consulting with patient

Here are the 7 most common myths surrounding urinary incontinence and the truth behind it.

  1. Medications are the best treatment

    Medication is not actually effective enough to treat conditions such as overactive bladder and urine leakage. Medication will only be effective when combined with behavioural changes, such as decreasing intake of fluid and following a schedule for urination – and it has to be done under the care of a qualified healthcare practitioner.

  2. Only women have urinary incontinence

    It is common with women, but urinary incontinence also happens to men, especially to those who have been previously treated for prostate cancer.

  3. Incontinence is caused by childbirth

    Childbirth does cause urinary incontinence in some cases, it doesn’t happen to all mums who give birth. However, some women who have never been pregnant or given birth can also develop urinary incontinence. There are different factors which can cause women to have incontinence, including genetics, lifestyle and age.

  4. Incontinence is normal and it’s an inevitable part of aging

    Incontinence is common, and age and health are contributing factors, but not all aging people will inevitably have incontinence issues. Even young and sporty women could suffer from incontinence, due to exerting pressure on bladders while exercising.

  5. Incontinence is the same for everyone

    Incontinence affects each individual differently, and a treatment plan should be unique to each person. Some people experience stress incontinence, which occurs when there is a bladder leakage caused by coughing, sneezing or running; and some people experience urge incontinence or also known as “overactive bladder”, which is urine loss that is caused by strong and sudden urge to urinate.

  6. Incontinence is not a major health problem

    Incontinence is linked to other health and social issues such as depression, decreased social activity. Older women who suffer from overactive bladder would need to get up more often at night to use the toilet, and it exposes them to other risks such as falling and bone fracture.

  7. We should make sure we drink 8 glasses of water everyday

Some people need to drink plenty every day, especially if they have kidney issues, however 8 glasses can be excessive to some people, and excessive fluid intake could make incontinence worse. Caffeine, alcohol and artificial sweeteners also need to be avoided when you have incontinence problems because they produce more urine. [3]

Primary health physicians, including general practitioners need to be equipped with knowledge about this condition to be able to treat patients with urinary incontinence and give them the appropriate healthcare plan. Prof. Helen O’Connell and Dr. Johan Gani, both leading figures in urology in Australia have collaborated with The University of Melbourne – Mobile Learning Unit, to create an online course titled ‘Urinary Incontinence Management in Women’. The course will help primary health care physicians to create a management plan, as well as a theoretical background and practical clinical information on the condition.

Course Information

[1] Prevalence and economic impact of incontinence in Australia: Deloitte Access Economics 2010
[1] Health24, 12 facts about urinary incontinence
[1] Buchsbaum, G. Myth Buster: Get the facts on urinary incontinence

More Information

Mobile Learning Unit, University of Melbourne



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