Chronic heart failure and incontinence

Chronic heart failure is a long-term condition of the heart muscle. Symptoms include tiredness, shortness of breath, low blood pressure and swollen ankles from fluid build-up.

Some of the symptoms and treatments of this condition can contribute to bladder and bowel problems such as:

  • feeling a sudden, strong desire to pass urine (wee)
  • frequently passing urine (more than eight times a day)
  • leaking urine while rushing to the toilet (urge incontinence)
  • waking more than once during main sleep time to pass urine (nocturia)
  • experiencing small, hard and infrequent bowel motions (poo) that often require straining or pushing to pass (constipation).

If you are experiencing bladder and bowel problems it is important to maintain any prescribed treatment and discuss your concerns with a specialist.

Many continence problems associated with heart failure can be better managed

Assessment and treatment by a continence health professional may help reduce problems to a more manageable level and improve the quality of everyday life.

A continence health professional may assist by:

  • identifying other contributing factors to your continence problems that could be better managed or even cured
  • easing the impact of nocturia by recommending toileting equipment such as a non‐spill urine bottle
  • recommending toileting equipment such as a non‐spill urine bottle for nocturia to reduce the risks of falls during the night
  • improving constipation with lifestyle changes such as the type of fluids you drink, how to best sit on the toilet, going to the toilet as soon as you feel the urge, and laxative advice  
  • assessing your eligibility for Government funding to assist with the cost of continence products
  • providing advice about the best product to use to manage any leakage.


For further advice, talk to your family doctor or contact the National Continence Helpline on 1800 33 00 66.

The National Continence Helpline is staffed by Nurse Continence Specialists who offer free and confidential information, advice and support. They also provide a wide range of continence-related resources and referrals to local services.


Last Updated: Wed 08, May 2024
Last Reviewed: Thu 19, Mar 2020