Bladder and bowel problems

People of all ages can experience bladder control problems - especially people over 60 - yet many people keep it a secret for years.

Symptoms such as frequency, urgency, not getting to the toilet quickly enough, or having to get up at night to pass urine are common so there is no need to feel embarrassed about asking for help. 

Types of bladder problems

Urinary tract infections (UTIs)
If you have a UTI, like cystitis, you are likely to have a sudden urge to go to the toilet, go more often or feel a burning sensation when you do go. 

If you have to get up more than twice a night to pee and it is disturbing your sleep or making you tired in the daytime, speak to your doctor or nurse.

Stress incontinence
This is when you pee a little when you cough, sneeze, laugh or exercise – sometimes even gently, like walking. It is caused by a weak bladder outlet and weakness of the pelvic floor muscles that support it. These muscles can also be strained if you are overweight.

Urge incontinence
This is where you need the toilet so suddenly and urgently that it is difficult to get there in time

Urinary retention
This can happen when the bladder does not empty completely. Urine builds up and may overflow, often as a frequent, dribbling leak

Urinary infections can be serious – please consult your doctor for advice. Symptoms include needing to urinate more often, pain when urinating, cloudy urine or blood in your urine, an unusually unpleasant smell, or back or groin pain.

Types of bowel problems

This is a common type of bowel problem and happens when particularly hard poo becomes difficult to pass.

These are frequent, urgent, watery poos that can cause you to have an accident if you cannot find the toilet in time

Bowel incontinence
This is when you cannot control your bowel movements, and some poo accidentally leaks out

Urinary Bowel problems can occur in people of all ages and are not usually a sign of a serious problem. However, bowel cancer is more common in older people and it is important to talk to your doctor if bowel problems continue for more than four weeks.

Bowel cancer symptoms can include blood in your poo (stool), changes in your bowel habits and lower abdominal pain, bloating or discomfort.

There are things you can try that may help improve your symptoms too.
  • Drink normally, as cutting down on liquids will usually make urinary incontinence worse, not better.
  • If you notice that tea, coffee and other caffeinated drinks make your symptoms worse, cut down or try decaffeinated versions.
  • Check whether any medicines you are taking could be affecting your bladder or digestion.