Can't hold in your urine? You might be in trouble
Urinary incontinence can be a sign of something worse, such as bladder cancer
A leak down below can point to a more serious health issue elsewhere, and an early diagnosis is key to catching the problem before it worsens.
Urinary incontinence - the uncontrolled leakage of urine- can hit young and older adults.
Dr Tan Yung Khan, a senior consultant urologist at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital, emphasised the importance of seeking medical assistance early, as incontinence can severely impact a person's quality of life.
He told The New Paper: "As adult incontinence is also a symptom for bladder cancers, urinary tract infections and spinal cord injuries, getting diagnosed early allows the patient to detect those severe conditions before it deteriorates."
Adult incontinence comes in three forms.
Urge incontinence, caused by an overactive bladder, can occur at any age but is more common in younger people. It involves feeling the urge to urinate when the bladder is not full.
Stress incontinence, which is more common in people above 40, is when a person has problems controlling urine when engaging in physical movements such as exercising.
Overflow incontinenceis when the bladder is so full that urine leaks out, and usually hits the elderly.
According to Dr Tan, studies have shown that incontinence affects both men and women equally, although the type of incontinence may vary.
For instance, overflow incontinence in men may be caused by prostatic enlargement. In women, stress incontinence can be common as multiple births can lead to a weak pelvic floor.
Incontinence also gives rise to several inconveniences.
Ms P. Ong, a 37-year-old full-time caregiver to her 70-year-old mother, told TNP that the latter developed incontinence after a stroke in 2007.
Due to her brain injury and long hospital stay, she became reliant on adult diapers.
Frequent usage subsequently led to the elderly woman occasionally getting diaper rash.
Ms Ong said: "Whenever we go out, she will put on adult diapers but when she is at home, we don't want her to be using adult diapers as we don't want her to become reliant on them."
Ms Ong used to apply diaper rash cream and powder on her mother, who would scratch the itchy area until the skin bled.
Last December, her mother's rash cleared up within a week of using a washable brief for light incontinence by Australian brand Conni, which she purchased online from local healthcare importer and distributor De Pure International Pte Ltd.
"My mother now no longer has diaper rash as the brief is made of breathable material," she said.
"It works well to absorb leaks, and now we rarely have to clean up after her."
She added that her mother also uses a reusable bed pad from Conni, which is cooler and more comfortable than the waterproof rubber sheets they used previously.
Based on the type of incontinence, some behavioural changes can also help to manage the condition.
For example, patients can drink less fluids - particularly those with caffeines - before going out for prolonged periods, said Dr Tan.
"They could also practise pelvic floor exercises to manage stress incontinence and reduce the symptoms of urge incontinence," he said.
"But I can't stress enough the importance of proper evaluation by a doctor as it is the first step to determining the type of incontinence the patient is suffering from."
Dr Tan said there is no one-size-fits-all solution for incontinence as each type needs to be managed differently.
"Depending on the type, this can range from oral drugs and bladder injections to surgery procedures for obstructive prostates in causing overflow incontinence and stress incontinence in both females and males," he said.
Luckily, there has also been a rise in adult incontinence detection locally over the past few years, said Dr Tan.
He attributes this to patients striving for a better quality of life, as well as greater awareness of incontinence through campaigns such as Singapore Continence Week, which is in June.