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Who's at risk?

Anyone at any age can develop some form of incontinence. Some health conditions and life events can put you at an increased risk of developing either urinary or faecal incontinence. 

Risk factors for urinary incontinence

The risk factors most commonly linked with urinary incontinence include:

  • pregnancy (both pre- and post-natal women)
  • younger women who have had children
  • menopause
  • obesity
  • urinary tract infections
  • constipation
  • specific types of surgery such as prostatectomy (removal of all or part of the prostate) and hysterectomy (removal of all or part of the uterus and/or ovaries)
  • reduced mobility preventing you from getting to or using the toilet
  • neurological and musculoskeletal conditions such as multiple sclerosis and arthritis
  • health conditions such as diabetes, stroke, heart conditions, respiratory conditions, and prostate problems, and
  • some medications.

Risk factors for faecal incontinence

A risk factor for faecal incontinence is urinary incontinence. Other risk factors are similar to those of urinary incontinence, but also include:

  • chronic diarrhoea, and
  • dementia.

Although there are many risk factors for incontinence, only a few have undergone rigorous testing.  If you fall into one of these risk categories and are worried about poor bladder or bowel control (or experience symptoms of incontinence) speak to your doctor, a continence health professional or a continence nurse advisor on the National Continence Helpline on 1800 33 00 66.

If you are caring for someone with bladder or bowel problems, practical tips and advice are available to assist you with your care. Read more on caring with someone with incontinence.

What can be done?

Plenty can be done to improve or in some cases cure incontinence. Changes such as adopting a healthier diet and lifestyle. Incorporating regular exercise and practices good toilet habits can all lead to improvements. Visit our prevention page for more information

Important health alerts

Diabetes - If you are always feeling thirsty and having to urinate all the time, talk to your doctor. It's important that you are checked to ensure that diabetes is not the problem.

Kidney health check - Apart from other important functions, your kidneys produce urine which is then drained into the bladder. Did you know that you can lose up to 90 percent of kidney function and not know it? Ask your doctor for a kidney health check which can include a urine test, blood test, blood pressure test, and healthy lifestyle assessment.