The Inside Brief on Male Urinary Incontinence
Do you have trouble with bladder control? Let’s check the plumbing to discover some of the symptoms, causes and solutions to leaks in men.
Urinary incontinence is a common problem affecting 16% of men aged 40+.1 It can impact your confidence, dignity, sense of control, sex life and ability to get a good night’s sleep. Bladder leakage can be a symptom of another issues in your body and has many possible causes.
Most leaks in men are caused by prostate problems such as inflammation, enlargement or damage from surgery. Enlargement of the prostate gland is widespread in men over 40. In fact, more than half of men in their 60s and up to 90% of men aged 70+ have urinary symptoms linked to prostate enlargement.1
As the prostate gets bigger, it can press on the urethra and block the flow of urine. This can result in:
- Urge incontinence – when you have a sudden urge to go and can’t hold it in.
- Overflow incontinence – when you leak small amounts of urine from a bladder that’s always full.
- Post-micturition incontinence (PMI) – when you dribble after peeing or between toilet visits.
Weak pelvic floor
Leak a little when there’s extra pressure on your bladder, like when sneezing, laughing, coughing, bending over, heavy lifting or exercising? This is stress incontinence and it’s caused by weak pelvic floor muscles. It usually occurs temporarily in men after prostate surgery or radiation for prostate cancer. Another consequence of pelvic floor weakness is PMI or after-dribble.
The pelvic floor can also be weakened by medications, constipation, being overweight, injury, and persistent coughing from lung disease or smoking.
Urinary incontinence may be due to bladder issues like infection, cancer, weakness or an overly active bladder that suddenly spasms.
Other health conditions
Health conditions that affect the nervous system can cause leaks, such as diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy and stroke.
What you can do about it
First, see your doctor for a proper diagnosis of the type and cause of your leaks and to discuss your options. Most cases of incontinence can be cured, treated or managed.
Bladder leakage may be helped by lifestyle changes including weight loss, quitting smoking, regular exercise, drinking lots of water and eating a healthy diet full of fibre to avoid constipation. Common bladder irritants and triggers, like caffeine, alcohol and carbonated beverages, should be avoided to minimize leaks.
There are many ways to manage incontinence: bladder retraining, pelvic muscle exercises (done with or without biofeedback or electrical stimulation), medications, urethral inserts, condom catheters, penile compression devices or bulking agent injections. For more severe cases, surgery, an artificial sphincter implant or a sacral nerve stimulation device implant may be necessary.
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1 The Canadian Continence Foundation. (2018). The source: Your guide to better bladder control. Retrieved December 4, 2020, from https://www.canadiancontinence.ca/EN/the-source-guide.php