One in seven women and one in eight men will visit their local pharmacy for advice about bladder weakness instead of their GP. Donna Wilson, training and brand manager at TENA, explains…


One in three women and one in four men over the age of 40 experience bladder weakness at some point in their life, making it far more common than people may think. It is also common only to experience nocturnia – bladder weakness at night.

Symptoms can either be a long-term or short-term occurrence, dependent on a number of triggers, from lifestyle choice to unprovoked illness. For the urinary system to do its job, the brain, muscles and nervous system need to work together to hold urine in the bladder and not release it until you are ready.

However, there are many factors that can interfere with this process.Common causes of bladder weakness, which are not unique to either sex, include urinary tract infections, medication such as diuretics, being overweight – leading to extra pressure on the abdominal and pelvic muscles – and conditions such as diabetes or neurodegenerative diseases (for example, Alzheimer’s).

There are also links to smoking causing stress urinary incontinence from increased coughing.For many, the physical and hormonal changes that occur during milestones such as childbirth and the menopause – abdominal pressure during pregnancy and reduction in the quantity of oestrogen during menopause – can cause the pelvic floor muscles that keep the urethra closed to be weakened.

When these crucial muscles lose their elasticity everyday activities such as laughing, coughing and exercising can cause bladder weakness.There are numerous benefits of a toned pelvic floor including increased sensitivity during sex, a boost in confidence and a reduced risk of any unexpected little leaks.

It can take up to three months to notice a difference but with persistence and training three times a day, there are great benefits to be had. With 61% of women admitting to not making time for pelvic floor exercises, TENA is hoping to get more females on board with the launch of its updated version of the lights by TENA my pelvic floor fitness app (‘my PFF’).

Developed with the help of pelvic floor expert Paula Igualada-Martinez, ‘my PFF’ now features tutorial videos on achieving the big squeeze. The app gives instructions on getting started, how long to squeeze, and even allows you to track progress and set reminders to work out.

What about the role of pharmacy?

Recent research from TENA revealed that one in seven women and one in eight men will visit their local pharmacy for health advice about bladder weakness rather than their GP.

This means bladder weakness is now one of the fastest growing OTC categories in pharmacy. With this in mind a full range of bladder weakness products should be displayed in pharmacies, ranging from a low level of support to the heavier incontinence pads.

Customers should be able to browse the range of purpose-made protective products offered by TENA and ask questions to trained advisors – removing the need for lengthy GP waiting times.

Pharmacies are trusted environments and customers feel it is a safer environment to purchase bladder weakness products, especially if seeking additional advice.

This is especially advantageous as it allows pharmacists and pharmacy staff to build a rapport with the local community, understanding their needs and how to respond with meaningful advice that will enable them to live life to the full.

One in two women who use incontinence products in the daytime also use them at night and 84% are still using the same product in bed as they do for daytime activity. It’s no wonder then that 47% of women experience leakage when getting out of bed and 22% reported it even when lying down.

Nearly one in five women who get up to go to the toilet have to change their product. Night-time consumers contribute much more to the category than the average bladder weakness consumer.

Those who buy night-time protection spend more than twice as much in the category than those who just buy normal pads. Night-time consumers, although still only a small percentage of the market at 7.8%, are most likely buying across day and night, thus spending more. It’s important to open up a positive dialogue to ensure the correct product is being purchased. Here are a few pointers.

• Take them to a quiet part of the pharmacy or to a consultation room.• Put them at ease by explaining the commonality of bladder weakness, especially at night.

• Describe the added benefits of using a specifically designed night-time product using samples to demonstrate how they will help.

To ensure they are giving the best advice pharmacy staff may want to try asking the following questions:

• How often do you need to visit the toilet during the night?

• When you do leak, how much urine is lost?

• Are you taking any medication?


The Brand Manager’s View

Anna Sawkins, the managing director of Sweet Cures (manufacturers of Waterfall D-Mannose), talks bladder infections…

Historically it was believed that the urethra, the tube that carries urine out of the makes it easier for bacteria to find their way into the bladder. Once there, they find a docking port, and start to multiply, and we used to think that this was the whole story.

We now know, however, that mutated and therefore resistant bacteria can survive an antibiotic attack to burrow their way into the walls of the bladder where they then develop impermeable biofilms.

These biofilms let nutrients in but block an antibiotic attack. Dormant and protected, they will intermittently release bacteria in an attempt to colonise in the bladder once more and a cycle of reinfection is established.

Prevention Tips

• Drink plenty.

• Avoid acidifying foods and drink.

• Take a full body approach to hygiene – wash hands in hot water and soap regularly and after toilet visits, handling raw meat, touching animals, touching door handles and handling raw foods.

• Ensure raw meats are thoroughly cooked to reduce bacterial risk.

• Use good hygiene around sex – use appropriate protection around intercourse.

• Consider a private urine culture test.