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Incontinence After Stroke - How It Occurs and Management Tips

Changes to bladder and bowel control following a stroke are quite common, but there are plenty of ways to help manage and even cure stroke-induced incontinence.

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Incontinence After Stroke - How It Occurs and Management Tips
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Incontinence After Stroke -
How It Occurs & Management Tips

Changes to bladder and bowel control following a stroke are quite common, but there are plenty of ways to help manage and even cure stroke-induced incontinence.

Incontinence After Stroke - How It Occurs and Management Tips

Changes to bladder and bowel control following a stroke are quite common, but there are plenty of ways to help manage and even cure stroke-induced incontinence.

Approximately 100,000 people in the UK suffer from a stroke every year.

Along with effects such as impaired speech and cognitive function, restricted movement, muscle weakness and even paralysis, strokes can also cause incontinence.

In this article, we’ll explain how a stroke can lead to urinary and/or faecal incontinence, as well as how incontinence can be managed and, in some cases, cured.

How can a stroke cause incontinence?

A stroke is characterised by a sudden disruption of blood flow to the brain which can then affect the messages sent to and from the brain to complete major bodily functions.

The area of the brain which is affected by a stroke can be different for each individual. However, for some, the region of the brain could be the one that’s responsible for muscle coordination, sensation and communication between the brain and pelvic floor muscles.

Urinary incontinence occurs when the stroke impairs the brain's ability to send signals to the bladder muscles, resulting in an inability to control the timing of urination. This same kind of signal disruption can also occur between the brain and the anal sphincter muscles, which can cause fecal incontinence.

A stroke can also weaken the muscles that support pelvic organs - such as the bladder and bowel - which can impact their control and lead to incontinence.

Another way stroke can cause incontinence is if the person who’s suffered the stroke experiences memory loss or cognitive impairment. This person may have trouble remembering and recognising the urge to use the bathroom, which can lead to incontinence episodes.


How common is incontinence in stroke patients?

While there’s still plenty more research to be done into how many stroke patients are affected by continence, there is some evidence out there currently that can help give us an idea.

One 2008 study showed that urinary incontinence can affect anywhere between 40-60% of people admitted to hospital following a stroke, with 25% of them still having incontinence challenges after being discharged [1].

As for faecal incontinence, another early 2000s study found that the condition is a common complication post-stroke. The findings showed that 40% of people experienced faecal incontinence immediately following a stroke, and 10-19% still did six months on from their stroke.


How to manage stroke incontinence

Stroke-related urinary and fecal incontinence can significantly impact an individual's quality of life, but with the right strategies and support, these challenges can be managed and in some cases treated.

Here are four key ways to manage incontinence after a stroke:

1. Pelvic Floor Exercises & Rehabilitation

Whether the pelvic floor muscles have been compromised from a stroke, or if a person is struggling with controlling their urge to use the toilet, pelvic floor exercises are a crucial part of managing incontiennce.

Pelvic physiotherapists specialise in exercise programs that target and strengthen the pelvic floor to regain bladder and bowel control. They can also provide other treatments using electronic sensors that can provide real-time feedback on muscle contractions to assist stroke survivors in rebuilding their muscle control.

While there are pelvic floor exercises you can do at home, we recommend that when recovering from a stroke you seek professional guidance and treatment from your doctors and physio.

2. Food & Drink

What a person with incontinence eats and drinks can impact the severity of their incontinence symptoms.

Food and drinks to avoid to control incontinence include:

  • Caffeinated drinks, such as coffee

  • Carbonated drinks

  • Alcohol

  • Some acidic fruits, including oranges, lemons and limes

  • Tomato-based foods

  • Chocolate

  • Spicy foods

  • Salty foods

Instead, you can opt for foods that are gentle on the bladder and bowel, including:

  • Lean meats and seafood

  • Bananas

  • Apples

  • Coconut

  • Strawberries and blackberries

  • Watermelon

  • Kale

  • Carrots

  • Celery

  • Lettuce

  • Cucumbers

3. Scheduled Toileting

Establishing a regular toileting schedule can help prevent accidents. Caregivers or family members can work with stroke survivors to create a consistent routine for bathroom visits, reducing the risk of accidents and helping the brain relearn proper signals for bladder and bowel control.

4. Medications

In some cases, your doctor and/or specialists may prescribe medications to manage incontinence.

For urinary incontinence, medications that relax the bladder muscles or reduce bladder contractions can be effective. Similarly, medications to regulate bowel movements and stool consistency may be recommended for fecal incontinence.

It's important to work closely with your healthcare professional to work out the most suitable medication and dosage based on your individual needs.

Stroke Incontinence Product Recommendations

We have a range of products to suit different levels of stroke-related incontinence, read below to find the one that best suits your needs.

If you’re unsure, you can always contact us. Our team of friendly product specialists are available 6 days a week to answer any questions you might have.  

Pads and Guards:

Our range of pads and guards are designed for light bladder leaks. The pads are made for women and have absorbency options ranging from 120mL up to 1000mL. The guards are for men and come in absorbency levels 400mL, 500mL and 650mL. Each range is anatomically designed to fit to the body securely while still allowing breathability between changes.

Pull-Up Pants:

Our unisex pull-ups are designed for moderate urinary incontinence and some faecal incontinence. Their patented magical tube technology make for rapid absorbency, with anti-leak guards and leg cuffs for extra protection. Dermatologically tested, the material is soft and gentle to maintain skin health. Our pull-ups range in absorbency from 1700mL to 2200mL.

All-In-One Slips:

Our slips offer the highest level of absorbency for heavy urinary and faecal incontinence, and for those with low mobility. Our slips are easy to apply and remove thanks to their velcro side tabs, which can be extremely helpful for family or carers to use on the person with incontinence. convenient wetness indicator, breathable fabric and an ultra-dry core help prevent skin irritation while reducing bulk for a more comfortable fit.

Furniture and Bed Protectors:

Our range of underpads, also known as disposable bed and furniture protectors, are the perfect last line of defence against leaks and also ensure your belongings are keep clean and dry. These are perfect to use on the bed, chairs, couches and even in the car when travelling.

Can Stroke Incontinence Be Cured?

In some cases incontinence can be cured, but the timeframe will depend on each individual and the severity of both their stroke and their incontinence. Your doctor will be able to give you a prognosis and treatment plan to help you live as comfortably as possible with incontinence.