What is Incontinence?

Incontinence is the inability to completely control the bladder or bowels. Any type of incontinence will occur by degrees from mild to severe and will have an array of causes. Urinary incontinence, though most common among women, occurs in men and manifests in different ways, as well. The National Association for Continence indicates that in the U.S. alone there are more than 20 million people dealing with some sort of incontinence, and this explains the huge array of incontinence products available.

As the University of Rochester reports, “while sales of adult diapers now outpace sales of baby diapers, incontinence is rarely discussed”. In fact, it often goes unreported because urinary incontinence in men and women of any age can feel embarrassing or may even be (wrongly) viewed as a normal part of life and/or aging. In this article, we are going to review the basic facts about urinary incontinence in men, which is not as often discussed as incontinence in women. While it is not as common, it exists in men of all ages and must be addressed, examined by a doctor and treated accordingly.

Causes of Urinary Incontinence in Men

So, first things first – why would men experience a loss of bladder control or urinary leakage?

Urine leakage, a key sign of urinary incontinence in men and women, occurs in a similar manner regardless of gender. As the experts at WebMD explain , “urine moves from your kidneys to your bladder through tubes called ureters. Your bladder stores your urine until a signal tells your brain that your bladder is full. Then urine leaves your body through a tube … called the urethra. Urinary incontinence happens either because the signal to your brain gets scrambled or doesn’t happen, or because of a problem somewhere in your urinary tract.”

Leakage might be due to overactive bladder (also called urge incontinence), muscle weakening in the area around the bladder or urethra, problems with fully emptying the bladder which causes it to become overly full, blockage, structural issues from birth, infection, medication, medical conditions, and more. What you need to realize, though, is that urinary incontinence in men (and women) is a symptom, typically, and not usually a condition on its own.

For example, for many men, an issue with their prostate may cause leakage. So, in that case, their incontinence would be a medical issue with the prostate. It is important to determine the cause of urinary incontinence in men rather than just live with it and ignore it as a symptom of something larger.

Symptoms of Urinary Incontinence In Men

  • Prostate issues – Enlarged prostate glands can be benign or due to cancer. The enlargement blocks the urethra and cues the bladder to work harder, building up the walls of the bladder and causing great difficulty in fully emptying it over time. Those who have been treated for prostate cancer may also find that nerve damage leads to incontinence.
  • Disease – Neurological diseases such as MS, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and even stroke can cause malfunctions in the nerves, leading to urinary incontinence in men and women alike. Allergies, though not a disease, may lead to behaviors like chronic bouts of coughing that can also weaken pelvic floor muscles and lead to urinary leakage. Urinary tract infections can also be a cause.
  • Obesity – A general lack of exercise may contribute to urinary incontinence in men but paired with obesity or too much extra body weight and it creates an amount of pressure on the bladder that can lead to urgency, an inability to hold urine, and urine leakage. Lack of exercise may lead to constipation, which itself can be a cause of urinary incontinence due to pressure on the urinary tract.
  • Surgery – An array of surgical procedures, in addition to prostate surgery, may lead to urinary incontinence in men. Back surgery, bowel surgery and other procedures might be a cause.
  • Lifestyle – It is known that consuming too much caffeine or alcohol (both diuretic in nature) may lead to incontinence, using narcotics or certain medications, and drinking too much fluid at once can also lead to leakage.

Of course, the loss of muscle tone over time and due to age may be a major contributing factor in the loss of bowel and/or bladder control. However, assigning blame to “old age” is unwise and not an excuse to skip a visit to a physician when urinary incontinence occurs.

Visiting the Doctor is a Good Choice

Whenever changes in bowel or bladder habits occur, it is wise to head to the doctor. For men, the following changes signify the need for a medical exam:

  • Leak urine if you cough, sneeze, laugh hard, lift something heavy or stand up quickly
  • Using the toilet more than eight times a day
  • Often fail to reach the toilet before some urine leaks out
  • Bladder has a sense of being full even after emptying
  • Pain with urination
  • Strain to pass urine
  • Lower abdominal area feels pressured

Your doctor will do a physical exam, look at your medical history, discuss your current lifestyle and may even run urine tests or more in-depth testing to determine the cause. They will then suggest the right treatment.

Treating Urinary Incontinence in Men

Just as there are many reasons that men develop urinary incontinence, there are also many treatments. These may range from more preventative measures such as bladder training (i.e., using a fixed schedule of fluid consumption and elimination), learning how to do kegel training, making lifestyle changes, and more. However, it could be that you may require medications or surgical intervention to improve your symptoms, including rubber sphincters being implanted around the urethra or male slings.

If the issue is not able to be entirely controlled, there are many male incontinence products that include well-designed undergarments with special materials that allow everyday activities, while maintaining discretion that a garment is even in use. There are skincare products including barrier creams and perineal cleansers, incontinence bed pads and sheeting, and much more to control odor and allow the user to have a normal and healthy life in spite of incontinence issues.

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