Bathroom Confidential: Personal Plumbing And Your Health

When Ya Gotta Go

Where’s the washroom? That might not be your first thought when you get to the mall, a movie theatre or a hockey game, but it’s top of mind for the one in five women over 35 (and one in six men) in Canada, coping with an overactive bladder (OAB). The tyrannical organ contracts suddenly, full or not, generating an urgent need for a toilet at least seven times a day and a minimum of twice a night. Leaking (urge incontinence) also bedevils some.

OAB possibly originates from disease or damage in the brain or nerves, or it may be a problem of hyperactive bladder muscles. Smoking, caffeine and/or alcohol consumption and stress can aggravate the situation; training the bladder to tolerate larger volumes may improve it. Anticholinergics, such as oxybutynin, relax bladder muscles, reducing erratic contractions. Side effects such as a dry mouth can be minimized now that a non-scented gel formulation of oxybutynin can be applied once a day on the thigh, shoulder, abdomen or upper arm and rubbed into the skin.

Sex Alert

If he has a long life, a man with intact testicles will almost inevitably develop a non-cancerous enlargement of the prostate gland known as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). This may compress the urethra, causing urinary symptoms similar to OAB.

By chance, men being treated with medication for erectile dysfunction (ED) reported they were urinating better, notes Dr. Gerald Brock,
professor of surgery, division of urology at the University of Western Ontario. Now men with BPH and ED may be prescribed a smaller, once-a-
day dose of a longer-acting drug, tadalafil, that treats the urinary problem and allows a more spontaneous sex life.

But a wavering willy could be a significant warning. In fact, in January 2011, the American Heart Association told physicians that ED “is a powerful predictor of coronary artery disease, especially in men less than 60 years of age.” Brock says that on average, ED problems develop about three years before a cardiac event occurs.

To reassure yourself and your partner, see your doctor if ED seems to be developing. Your sexual intimacy, your heart – and your life may be at stake.

It’s A Guy Thing

Women got used to wearing pads way back before hot flashes struck, but men? Not so much.

So what does a man do if urinary incontinence becomes a problem? First, consult a physician. Then, if it’s light to moderate leakage, you may try discreet absorbent pouches that adhere to underwear, such as Depend Guards for Men. The ActiCuf Compression Pouch also restricts urine flow by putting slight pressure on
the urethra.

Frustrated by incontinence that followed surgery for prostate cancer, Henry Rennich of Calgary perfected a small, adjustable clamp that fits on the end of the penis and exerts just enough pressure to stop leaks. Wearing the Dribblestop, men can be physically active, but its plastic construction means there are no embarrassing “what’s in your pants?” explanations required at airport security.

Down Under

Women can’t get prostate cancer. They don’t have prostate glands. Some Canadians surveyed in a Leger Marketing poll last summer, however, were a bit confused, with 34 per cent not knowing that prostate cancer only afflicts men.

In fact, it is the most common cancer in Canadian men – one in seven men will develop the disease. (One in nine women will have breast cancer, the most common cancer in women.)

Risk factors for men include aging; African or Caribbean descent; family history of the disease; and a high-fat, low-fibre diet. Early detection yields the best survival rate so don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor about a digital rectal exam and a PSA (prostate specific antigen) blood test. And ladies? At least, you won’t have to have them.