Do I have a bladder or bowel problem?

Many people are affected by bladder and bowel problems. Find out if your bladder and bowel are healthy or if you need to get a check up.

Who is affected by bladder problems?

Not having control of your bladder (incontinence) is a common health problem for many people. About 4 million Australians have bladder control problems.

Bladder control problems are most common in older people, however they can occur at any stage throughout your life. Many conditions can affect the bladder:

How do I know if I have a healthy bladder?

Any unexpected leaking of wee (urine) is not normal. It might just happen occasionally when you laugh or cough, or you might not be able to hold your wee at all. Often a simple change or some treatment can help to cure, improve or manage it.

The first thing to do is:

If you think you could have a bladder problem, the most important thing you can do is to seek help. Bladder problems can be embarrassing and distressing. It won’t go away if you do nothing.

Bladder control check up

If you are having trouble with bladder control you may need to have a bladder control check up. This check up helps find out the cause of your bladder control problems.  It can also help plan your treatment.

In the check up you will be asked questions about your diet, weight, medical history and general health. Your doctor may also do:

  • a wee test
  • a blood test
  • an x-ray or ultrasound
  • a special test (urodynamic test) to show how your bladder works

Who is affected by bowel problems?

People with poor bowel control (also called faecal incontinence) are unable to control when they poo.

Bowel problems can happen to men and women across all ages. As many as 1 in 20 people have a bowel problem. It is more common as you get older, but younger people can also have poor bowel control. Some conditions or injuries can cause bowel problems. These include:

  • diarrhoea
  • constipation
  • nerve injury or disease
  • damaged muscles around your bottom (anus) after having a baby or surgery

If you have a bladder problem you are also at risk of having a bowel problem. Other risk factors include:

  • chronic diarrhoea
  • dementia

How do I know if I have a healthy bowel?

Check to see what the signs of having a healthy bowel are.

You may have a problem with bowel control, if you:

  • can’t control your wind (farts)
  • have to rush to get to the toilet to do a poo
  • leak poo onto your clothes
  • have difficulty doing a poo

There are some conditions and diseases that can affect the bladder and bowel. Some can have the same signs and symptoms as incontinence. Because of that it is important to see your doctor to find out the cause of your particular problem.

Last updated: 
11 December 2019

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