The Effects of Incontinence on Quality of Life

Introduction

Incontinence (leakage of urine or stool) affects an individual’s quality of life in many ways. For example, the average adult with normal elimination functioning urinates approximately every three to four hours. In addition, they can delay urination until finding an acceptable time and place. An individual feels embarrassed due to social taboos about leakage of urine or stool. Even a minimal amount of leakage can significantly reduce one’s quality of life. 

Impact on Quality of Life

Individuals with incontinence issues are affected by mental health, work and social settings, and physical health. In addition, individuals suffer from the loss of self-esteem, sadness, and irritability and lose interest in activities they once enjoyed. Therefore, leakage with urgency has a more significant impact on the quality of life issues. 

  • Social: Individuals self-isolate due to the social taboo of leakage of urine and stool. There becomes planning of life surrounded by the fear of leaking urine or stool in social situations. They are embarrassed about the frequent trips to the bathroom. Due to restrictions on the ability to function socially, activities are limited. Intimate relationships are also affected by urine loss, discomfort during intercourse, and lack of desire. 
  • Work limitation: There is an increased absenteeism rate with an overactive bladder. Work productivity is deceased due to frequent trips to the restroom. Lack of sleep may also decrease productivity due to the need to go to the bathroom multiple times during the night. Individuals have concerns with interrupting meetings with urgency to eliminate body waste. Work locations can cause a problem with minimal or no restroom facilities and long hours. 
  • Health: Individuals may experience low energy levels, pain, physician mobility, and decreased sleep.
  • Body image: Pad use affects body image, skin irritations, and concerns with odors.
  • Financial: Incontinence supplies are expensive and many times not covered by most insurance companies. Incontinence also weighs heavily on caregivers.  Data proves that women over 65 years of age tend to spend more than twice as much on incontinence products. 
  • Physical: Possible chronic skin infections due to over-exposure to moisture.  Reports of reduced physical activity and or high impact exercise tend to be avoided or stopped to avoid involuntary leakage.

Is There a Solution?

 

When it comes to a person with incontinence, it’s apparent that the physical, mental, and financial stresses that are placed on them adversely impact their overall quality of life. Many of these pressures can be alleviated by a wide range of therapy alternatives that are available to patients, however. For the treatment that so many people require, we must first begin to look at this problem differently. When it comes to incontinence, doctors and patients need to be open about the issue. The stigma associated with incontinence has lingered for a long time, and as a community, we must do our best to remove it from our lives. People with this ailment are urged to speak up, educate themselves and seek medical attention. Because there is no way to live with an illness that has such a significant impact on your bodily, mental, and financial well-being.

Conclusion

Incontinence affects the quality of life mentally, physically, and socially. Individuals seek social isolation due to social taboos of inappropriate time and place of leakage of urine and stool. Incontinence is a treatable condition, and it is essential to talk to your healthcare provider for treatment. Treatment may not prevent all accidents, but improvement may help maintain a normal way of life.

Disclaimer

The views and opinions stated in this blog are exclusively those of the author and do not reflect those of iWound, its affiliates, or partner companies.

Future Reading and References

Biswas, B., Bhattacharyya, A., Dasgupta, A., Karmakar, A., Mallick, N., & Sembiah, S. (2017). Urinary Incontinence, Its Risk Factors, and Quality of Life: A Study among Women Aged 50 Years and above in a Rural Health Facility of West Bengal. Journal of mid-life health, 8(3), 130–136. https://doi.org/10.4103/jmh.JMH_62_17

Cheng, M. C., Liu, S. P., Chuang, Y. C., Hsu, K., & Chow, P. M. (2022). Prevalence and impacts of male urinary incontinence on quality of life, mental health, work limitation, and health care seeking in China, Taiwan, and South Korea (LUTS Asia): Results from a cross-sectional, population-based study. Investigative and clinical urology, 63(1), 71–82. https://doi.org/10.4111/icu.20210259

Cotterill N. Quality of life issues in continence care. Nurs Stand. 2011 Oct 26-Nov 1;26(8):51-6; quiz 58. doi: 10.7748/ns2011.10.26.8.51.c8787. PMID: 22165807. DOI: 10.7748/ns2011.10.26.8.51.c8787

Gascón MRP, Mellão MA, Mello SH, Negrão RM, Casseb J, Oliveira ACP. The impact of urinary incontinence on the quality of life and on the sexuality of patients with HAM/TSP. Braz J Infect Dis. 2018 Jul-Aug;22(4):288-293. doi: 10.1016/j.bjid.2018.07.003. Epub 2018 Aug 24. PMID: 30145198.

Gümüşsoy S, Kavlak O, Dönmez S. Investigation of body image, self-esteem, and quality of life in women with urinary incontinence. Int J Nurs Pract. 2019 Oct;25(5):e12762. doi: 10.1111/ijn.12762. Epub 2019 Jul 12. PMID: 31297932.

Krhut J, Gärtner M, Mokris J, Horcicka L, Svabik K, Zachoval R, Martan A, Zvara P. Effect of severity of urinary incontinence on quality of life in women. Neurourol Urodyn. 2018 Aug;37(6):1925-1930. doi: 10.1002/nau.23568. Epub 2018 Mar 31. PMID: 29603780.

Pisani GK, Sato TO, de Carvalho DHT, Carvalho C. Impact of urinary incontinence on quality of life in female CrossFit practitioners: A cross-sectional study. Eur J Obstet Gynecol Reprod Biol. 2022 Jan;268:56-61. doi: 10.1016/j.ejogrb.2021.11.424. Epub 2021 Nov 24. PMID: 34861594.

Pizzol D, Demurtas J, Celotto S, Maggi S, Smith L, Angiolelli G, Trott M, Yang L, Veronese N. Urinary incontinence and quality of life: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Aging Clin Exp Res. 2021 Jan;33(1):25-35. doi: 10.1007/s40520-020-01712-y. Epub 2020 Sep 22. PMID: 32964401; PMCID: PMC7897623.

Saboia DM, Firmiano MLV, Bezerra KC, Vasconcelos JA Neto, Oriá MOB, Vasconcelos CTM. Impact of urinary incontinence types on women’s quality of life. Rev Esc Enferm USP. 2017 Dec 21;51:e03266. Portuguese, English. doi: 10.1590/S1980-220X2016032603266. PMID: 29267732.

Yılmaz Bulut T, Altay B. Sleep Quality and Quality of Life in Older Women With Urinary Incontinence Residing in Turkey: A Cross-sectional Survey. J Wound Ostomy Continence Nurs. 2020 Mar/Apr;47(2):166-171. doi: 10.1097/WON.0000000000000615. PMID: 31913876.

Zalewski, M., Kołodyńska, G., Mucha, A., & Andrzejewski, W. (2021). A Prospective Study of the Quality of Life of Patients with Stress Incontinence before and after a Transobturator Tape (TOT) Procedure-Preliminary Report. Journal of clinical medicine, 10(19), 4571. https://doi.org/10.3390/jcm10194571

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