Incontinence - local help is available to tackle the 'hidden problem'
PUBLISHED: 12:14 04 December 2019 | UPDATED: 12:32 04 December 2019
No one wants to talk about incontinence, but a Wisbech company is offering a discreet and personal service to ensure sufferers can buy the best products for their individual condition.
They call it the "hidden problem" - urinary incontinence, a condition which may affect as many as three million men and women in the UK, according to the British Association of Urological Surgeons (BAUS) - roughly the equivalent of 5pc of the population.
BAUS also estimates that 60-80pc of people with bladder problems have never sought medical advice for their condition, while 35pc view it simply as part of the ageing process. According to the Association of Coloproctology of Great Britain and Ireland 'about half a million adults in the UK cannot control their bowels properly' meaning bowel incontinence is actually very common.
In addition, the embarrassment surrounding the problems means that there may be many more people suffering in silence - up to seven million people in the country by some accounts. The issue of privacy and discretion is taken extremely seriously by Amaks Medical, a new Wisbech-based company supplying incontinence products in the area.
The friendly faces behind the start-up, set up by an established Peterborough GP, are Marie Richmond and Natalie Wood, both with years of experience in healthcare and customer service.
"We believe there are no other local companies that sell incontinence products, so currently people will have had to go a supermarket or buy online," says Marie. "We're different because we can not only deliver to your door, but we can also offer advice on the best product for an individual's needs."
Natalie adds: "We pride ourselves on being a discreet service. Our van signage does not refer to incontinence and all our products are delivered in plain paper bags."
Incontinence is often associated with the elderly, but the problem is more widespread and generally falls into the following categories:
Stress incontinence. Usually the result of sphincter weakness cause by childbirth, loss of hormone support due to the menopause, hysterectomy or increasing age. It is also made worse by obesity.
Due to bladder muscle overactivity, in most patients, the underlying cause is unknown. Urinary infections, bladder stones, bladder cancer, neurological disease (for example, stroke, Parkinson's disease) and obstruction (usually prostate enlargement) can all cause urge incontinence.
Usually due to chronic retention of urine (in men), but may also be caused by a congenital abnormality of the bladder or by spinal cord injury.
Generally an inherited problem, injury to the pelvis, a fistula from the bladder to a point below the sphincter or a complication of surgery.
Faecal incontinence. Also known as bowel incontinence, this is where you can experience problems controlling your bowels.
A cause is rarely found for this type of incontinence. In a small proportion of patients, it may be due to a urethral diverticulum or a stricture of the urethra, abnormalities which can be demonstrated by a special ultrasound scan of the urethra.
Meanwhile, with an ageing demographic in the Wisbech area, Marie and Natalie believe the timing is perfect for an individual service in the region. "It's a good location to get started," says Marie. "We also sell nationwide on our website."
An added bonus for residents in the PE13 and PE14 postcodes is free delivery, with free delivery also on all Amaks Medical orders over £50.
The duo set great store by the provision of expert advice to customers. "We aim to rotate office and delivery duties so we both get to meet our customers," says Natalie. "If people are not sure of the best product for their situation, we can talk them through it. Also, if we can't immediately answer a query, all our suppliers have their own trained nurses and we can get information directly from them."
Amaks Medical currently stocks products from Abena, Attends and Kes-Vir, the latter supplying a specialist range of attractive incontinence swimwear for men and women, cleverly made to hide the fact that they are for incontinence sufferers.
"Abena is an eco-friendly company concerned with the environment and supply us with a wide range of incontinence pads, washable underwear, skincare, washing products, bed and chair protection to name a few," says Marie. "Attends also supply us with a range of incontinence products, some of which are at a slightly lower cost. We will have more brands as we become better known and build the business."