Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content

Bettering your bladder and bowel care

In conjunction with World Continence Week in June, learn how seniors can better manage constipation, diarrhoea, urinary incontinence and urinary tract infections by developing healthy habits.

In caring for the community as the Caring General Hospital, Changi General Hospital (CGH)’s community nurses visit Senior Activity Centres, Residents’ Committees, Community Centres and seniors’ homes to educate seniors on health and wellness. They impart tips and advice on making lifestyle changes and exercises to help them better manage their bladder and bowel conditions, carry out geriatric general health assessments and conduct caregiver training.

Managing common bladder and bowel conditions

Constipation, diarrhoea, urinary incontinence and urinary tract infections are common bladder and bowel conditions seen in the community. While such conditions can potentially affect patients of any age and gender, some of these can pose a greater challenge to seniors with mobility issues or other underlying health concerns, in terms of convenience and hygiene. These conditions can also pose a serious threat to young children especially if they last for a prolonged duration.


Most people would have experienced constipation in their lifetime. The hard or infrequent passing of stools is often accompanied by bloating and abdominal discomfort. While it is usually temporary, complications such as hemorrhoids (swollen veins in anus), rectal prolapse (intestines protruding from the anus), and anal fissure can occur.

Causes of constipation include inadequate fibre and liquid intake in the diet. Clinical interventions are required to address constipation arising from colorectal diseases, irritable bowel syndrome and medications.

  • Modify your diet by consuming more high-fibre foods such as whole grains, vegetables and fruits
  • Modify your lifestyle by staying active and getting regular exercise
  • If dietary and lifestyle modifications are insufficient in helping to relieve the symptoms, the doctor might prescribe some medications that can help provide relief: stool softeners, bowel stimulants, bulk-forming agents and suppositories


When your bowel movements are loose, watery and frequent, you are having diarrhoea. It is important to monitor and consult your doctor if the diarrhoea does not improve after 24 hours.

Diarrhoea can be caused by bacterial or viral agents that you have incidentally consumed as a result of improper handling or preparation of food, or if you have allergies or sensitivities to certain foods. Medication may be prescribed if your doctor deems it necessary. You should seek treatment as soon as possible if you are unable to stay hydrated due to severe vomiting, have blood in your stool or have a fever.

  • Seek medical advice before using anti-diarrheal drugs
  • Ensure adequate hydration
  • Monitor and prevent skin from irritation due to constant contact with faeces or urine


Feeling a “burning” pain when passing urine, having blood-stained, cloudy or foul-smelling urine or experiencing lower loin pain or fever? It could be a urinary tract infection (UTI) at play.

UTI indicates the presence of a significant amount of bacteria within the urinary tract, and can be caused by a range of factors including the introduction of foreign bodies around the urinary tract, co-existing diseases involving the pelvis such as tumours and inflammatory bowel disease, and sexual activity. Consult a doctor if you suspect that you have UTI — you may be prescribed antibiotics to treat your condition after a urine culture test is conducted.

  • Drink plenty of fluids, especially water. Cranberry juice may also be helpful
  • Practise good hygiene by wiping yourself from front to back to avoid faecal contamination of the urinary tract after going to the toilet
  • Regularly empty your bladder completely to prevent accumulation of infected urine in the bladder


If you are leaking urine involuntarily, you may be experiencing urinary incontinence. There are three main types of urinary incontinence — Stress Urinary Incontinence (SUI), Urgency Urinary Incontinence (UUI) and Overflow Urinary Incontinence (OUI).

In SUI, involuntary urinary leakage occurs because of the loss of support to the bladder and urethra, due to causes such as chronic coughing, childbirth, menopause, previous prostate surgery in men, or extended high-impact activities such as running. Patients with UUI experience symptoms characterised by urinary urgency, usually associated with frequent urination during the day and/or during sleep. For some patients, the urinary urgency can be so severe that they may leak urine before they have a chance to reach the toilet. OUI may be related to weak bladder muscle contraction and/or bladder outlet obstruction, for example in men with prostate problems.

It is possible to recover through various treatments, including the avoidance of caffeinated drinks, use of non-surgical methods such as pelvic floor (Kegel) exercises, oral medication and surgical procedures.

  • Empty your bladder every two to three hours to prevent urine retention
  • Wear clothing that is easy to remove
  • Consider the use of absorbent products, for example, incontinence liner, pads, diapers
  • Keep skin area between the anus and genitals clean and dry to prevent skin problems such as irritations and infections
  • Keep a commode, bedpan or urinal nearby if mobility is a problem

Bettering your bladder and bowel care