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If you experience persistent bladder or bowel problems, don’t put off seeking medical advice, particularly if you are thinking of buying continence products for the first time.
Incontinence can be a difficult thing to talk about but in most cases, especially if diagnosed early, there will be an effective treatment that can manage or cure your particular problem. This is true no matter how old you are. As incontinence can significantly affect the quality of your day-to-day life and your confidence, you should raise it promptly with either your GP or local NHS continence clinic. If you ultimately need pads or other products, you can find out from them what the NHS will provide.
Before you go to see a health professional, consider keeping a diary for a week of the problems you have had, how it is affecting you and any dietary or medication changes that you think may have triggered your problem.
Your GP will examine you and conduct necessary tests to identify the cause of your problem. They will then discuss treatment options with you that may involve a change of diet or doing pelvic floor exercises or bladder retraining, and if necessary can prescribe medicines and continence products. If these measures do not help or aren’t appropriate, they can refer you to a hospital specialist for further tests. They may also refer you to a continence adviser for help with pelvic floor exercises or bladder retraining.
If you prefer, you could go directly to your local NHS continence clinic, staffed by specialist nurses known as continence advisers and by physiotherapists. They can help whether you have bladder incontinence or bowel incontinence, and you don’t need a referral from your GP. On your first visit, a continence adviser will try to identify the cause of your problem, go through treatment options with you and usually start your treatment. They are particularly skilled in helping with bladder retraining and can also teach you how to do pelvic floor exercises properly. They can also issue continence pads and other products should you need them.
You can find details of your local continence clinic from your local Primary Care Trust’s Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PCT PALS). You can get their phone number by contacting NHS 111 or by finding details of your local office here.