The stigma attached to incontinence prevents those with the condition finding the support and resolution they need, say experts from the second Global Incontinence Forum on incontinence.
New research presented at the forum found only 60% of people with incontinence were comfortable talking about the issue with their partner while less than 30% choose to tell members of their close family.
Less women than men felt comfortable talking to their GP or partners about their condition, and instead relied on friends for support.
Chair of the 2nd Global Forum for incontinence Ian Milsom said: "I think we have come some way in the past 10-20 years in reducing the social taboo of incontinence.
"However, I am afraid we are still some way off treating an issue, that will after all affect many of us in some way or another in our lifetime, as normal a healthcare problem as asthma, raised cholesterol or depression."
The stigma is also supported by the fact that health professionals often overestimate a patient's discomfort when talking about incontinence, he said, when the patient actually would prefer a clear and open discussion.
Ian Milsom added: "There is little doubt that the unfashionable and taboo nature of incontinence is a barrier that prevents effective discussion and practical intervention."