Nine million, or one in ten Germans, are unable to control fecal or urinal defecation. Yet despite the high numbers of people affected, it remains a taboo subject in society. Many suffer from the ailment from birth, or following an operation, or due to the effects of age, said experts as they met for a conference on Friday.
“The subject has negative connotations. Nobody likes to admit: 'I wet my pants,'” said Klaus-Peter Jünemann, head of the German Continence Society at the meeting of around 1000 medical professionals in Würzburg, Bavaria, who gathered to discuss diagnosis and treatment methods.
Around a quarter of women and one in ten men over the age of 60 suffer from a lack of bladder control, but despite its reputation as an ailment associated with old age, incontinence can also affect young people and children.
“Only ten percent of those affected are adequately treated. And that's a big problem,” said Jünemann, who called for the wall of silence surrounding incontinence to be broken down, not just by those affected, who are often embarrassed, but also by the medical establishment.
“Incontinence is also trivialised by doctors” said Ursla Peschers, Chief Physician at the gynecology unit at the Munich-Bogenhausen surgical hospital.
“If those affected overcome [their embarrassment] and succeed in talking about their problems, doctors should at least know the right contact places [to refer them to],” said Christoph-Thomas Germer, director of a surgical clinic at the University clinic in Würzburg.
People suffering from incontinence must find the courage to seek information from competent advice centres and not carry the problem around with them for years in secret, said the Continence Society. If left alone, urinal incontinence can lead to difficult psychological and social complications such as depression, anxiety or social isolation.