There are a number of health professionals that specialise in the area of continence which can make it confusing to work out who you should see to treat your problem. This information outlines the different types of health professionals and their role / area of expertise. It also provides some tips on how to approach your first appointment with a health professional.
The Continence Foundation recommends speaking to your doctor or a continence nurse advisor on the National Continence Helpline 1800 33 00 66 to help determine the most suitable health professional / service provider to meet your needs, which is an important part of your help seeking journey.
A continence nurse advisor is a registered nurse with extensive training in continence care. They are able to assess your condition and work with you to develop a management plan to suit your needs. Continence nurse advisors may visit you at home or see you in a continence clinic.
Continence and women's health or pelvic floor physiotherapists hold post graduate qualifications specialising in pelvic floor muscle training. They can assess your pelvic floor function and tailor an exercise program to meet your specific needs. They can also prescribe other treatment options such as biofeedback and discuss relevant lifestyle factors with you.
Physiotherapists with an interest in continence and women's health or pelvic floor do not hold post graduate qualifications, but may work exclusively in this area. They can assess your pelvic floor function and tailor an exercise program to meet your specific needs. They can also prescribe other treatment options and discuss relevant lifestyle factors with you.
Accredited Practising Dietitians are recognised professionals with the qualifications and skills to provide expert nutrition and dietary advice. They know about food and health and can help you sort through the maze of nutrition information.
Occupational therapists work in partnership with other health professionals (and often the family and friends of the people with incontinence) to ensure the safety and independence of the person within and outside of their home (activities of daily life).
Pharmacists can offer advice on medications that may cause or aggravate incontinence. They may also be able to provide you with continence product advice, free information resources and the details of local continence service providers.
General practitioners (GP) can assess, diagnose and treat incontinence. GPs have varying levels of knowledge on incontinence. They may therefore choose to refer you to a continence health professional rather than diagnose and treat your condition themselves, which is an equally effective and in some cases better, option.
If you are seen by a continence health professional it is important to involve your GP in your care. This is as they possess good knowledge of your health history, including any medical conditions, surgery or medications you may have or be on, which may pre-dispose you to developing incontinence.
If you are embarrassed to speak to your GP about bladder or bowel weakness try and tie it in to a regular health check or Pap smear or prostate examination. You should also discuss the management of other conditions such as asthma, diabetes, obesity and arthritis to reduce their impact on your incontinence.
Urologists are combined medical and surgical specialists who treat men and women with kidney, bladder and urinary problems. Urologists also care for men's sexual and reproductive health.
A gynecologist is a doctor who specialises in preventing and treating illnesses of the female reproductive organs. If you are incontinent, your general practitioner may refer you to a specialist, such as a gynaecologist, to discuss treatment that may improve your condition.
A urogynaecologist is a fully trained gynaecologist who has undertaken further advanced specialist training to deal with the complexities of vaginal prolapse and types of bladder dysfunction including urinary incontinence.
Geriatricians are doctors who specialise in providing medical care for elderly persons. Rather than focus solely on disease detection and cure, they also deal with the social and rehabilitative aspects of an elderly person's health.
Gastroenterologists specialise in gastrointestinal diseases and are able to investigate the causes and contributing factors to severe bowel dysfunction.
Once a person has visited a gastroenterologist and investigations suggest a diagnosis of severe rectal dysfunction the physician may refer the client to a colorectal surgeon. Colorectal surgeons have skills in surgical techniques designed to correct mechanical bowel dysfunction that contributes to constipation.