Male Incontinence: What to Know About Urinary Incontinence in Men
Urinary Incontinence (UI) is a prevalent condition throughout the United States, with more than 25 million Americans experiencing UI or overactive bladder. Because UI tends to affect women more than it does men, there are fewer resources out there for men dealing with bladder-related issues.
According to the National Institute of Health, men over 45 years old are more likely to have UI than younger men. 11 to 34 percent of men over 45 are likely to experience some form of UI, whereas two to 11 percent of older men experience daily UI symptoms.
Just because men experience UI at a lower rate than women doesn’t mean male incontinence isn’t worth talking about: Involuntary leaking or emptying of the bladder can significantly decrease your quality of life, but can be easily managed and treated with the right products and the advice of a medical professional.
Stats show that shame and stigma lead only 18 percent of men to seek help for their urinary incontinence, compared to 33 percent of women. Don’t be part of the vast majority that ignores an issue that is easily treatable. With proper diagnosis, 80 percent of all incontinence issues can be treated or cured.
In this article, we’ll walk through the causes and symptoms of male incontinence, the options for male incontinence treatment, and tips for managing daily incontinence in men.
What is male incontinence?
Urinary incontinence is defined as the involuntary or accidental loss of bladder control. This can be small leaks (a few drops at a time), moderate leaks (up to a cup at a time), or full loss of bladder control, resulting in the emptying of the bladder. It is estimated to affect around 5 million men in the United States.
Types of urinary incontinence in men
Understanding what type of incontinence you’re experiencing can help you work with a medical professional to diagnose and treat your issue.
Stress incontinence in men
Stress incontinence is associated with physical stressors such as laughing, lifting, exercise, sneezing, or coughing. It does not involve mental or emotional stress, but rather physical movements that force urine out.
Male urge incontinence
Urge incontinence is the most common type of incontinence for men, also sometimes referred to as overactive bladder. If you notice a sudden, frequent urge to urinate (often too sudden to reach a restroom in time) you are likely experiencing a form of urge incontinence.
Functional incontinence in men
Functional incontinence is defined as the inability to reach a restroom in time due to another ailment or condition, typically a physical or mental incontinence.
If an illness like Parkinson’s Disease or Multiple Sclerosis has caused nerve damage that affects the way your brain and bladder communicate, you may experience neurological incontinence.
Overflow incontinence in men
If you have a constant, uncontrollable flow of urine (either in episodes or all the time) you could have overflow incontinence caused by nerve damage or an obstruction. You should seek help from a medical professional quickly to diagnose the issue.
It’s very common to experience more than one form of incontinence at a time (such as stress and urge incontinence).
What causes male incontinence?
Incontinence is not something that occurs on its own — it is a symptom of a larger issue. That’s why it’s important to work with a medical professional if you’re experiencing urinary incontinence; you’re likely to have a larger underlying condition that requires treatment and management in order to improve your incontinence.
Conditions that can lead to urinary incontinence in men
Certain diseases and health issues
A common factor contributing to urinary incontinence is disease and health issues. Some conditions can lead to bladder spasms, irritate your bladder, or damage nerves that help the brain and bladder communicate.
Diseases and conditions that can lead to urinary incontinence in men include (but are not limited to):
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Parkinson’s disease
Problems with your prostate may lead to urinary incontinence or overactive bladder (urge incontinence). Much like incontinence itself, prostate issues are often symptoms of a larger issue: You may have an enlarged prostate from cancer or a non-cancerous condition called benign prostatic hyperplasia.
If you do have prostate cancer, certain treatments such as surgery and radiation can lead to temporary urinary incontinence.
What’s more, an enlarged prostate could lead to an obstruction of your urethra, which will lead to weakened pelvic muscles and can cause stress incontinence.
Urinary tract infections (UTIs)
While UTIs are more common in women because of their shorter urethras, they also occur in men. UTIs can lead to temporary incontinence as the bacteria increases your urge to urinate.
If you have major surgery such as prostate surgery, lower back surgery, or any surgery involving your bladder or urinary tract, you may experience incontinence while you heal. It’s possible for nerves to be damaged in your urinary tract during surgery.
Food and drink
If you have weakened bladder muscles or other incontinence-causing problems, certain foods, drinks, and medicines can worsen your condition. Alcohol, caffeine, certain meds like diet pills, cold medicine, narcotics, sedatives, and antidepressants can worsen your incontinence symptoms. If you’re dealing with incontinence, speak to a medical professional to determine if you should fade out any of these.
Extra pounds can add pressure to your bladder, making you feel like you need to go more often and sometimes leading to urge incontinence (overactive bladder).
Older men are more likely to experience incontinence than younger men, in part because your bladder and pelvic muscles will lose some tone and strength as you age.
How is male incontinence diagnosed?
It is typically fairly simple to receive a diagnosis for urinary incontinence— it’s the underlying cause that may take more time to diagnose. That’s why you should work with a doctor or medical professional to assess your medical history and current symptoms and arrive at a proper diagnosis. Typical diagnostic measures include:
Lab tests: Your doctor may take urine and blood samples for analysis
Rectal exam: Your doctor may perform a digital rectal exam to determine if you have an enlarged prostate or other obstructions.
Physical: Your doctor may perform a physical exam to identify other physical issues that could lead to incontinence.
How to treat urinary incontinence
If you’re experiencing UI, you have several options for treatment depending on your unique situation (which you should discuss with your doctor to determine the best course of action for you).
Medications and drug treatment
Depending on the type and degree of your UI, your doctor may recommend medication to treat or lessen your symptoms.
- If you have overactive bladder, your doctor may prescribe an anticholinergic such as Oxybutynin.
- If you have an enlarged prostate, you may be prescribed tamslulosin (Flomax).
- If you trouble fully emptying your bladder, resulting in leaking in between restroom visits, your doctor may prescribe Mirabegron to help you fully empty your bladder.
- Botox is a treatment option for some patients: The botox can relax bladder muscles when injected into your bladder.
- Your doctor may inject a synthetic bulking agent into the tissues around your urethra, helping it stay closed while you’re not urinating.
Many forms of incontinence can be managed with simple lifestyle adjustments.
Strengthening exercises: Pelvic exercises such as kegels can help you rebuild strength and tighten muscles, offering you better control over when you urinate.
Bladder training: Regularly scheduling trips to the bathroom can help you keep your bladder empty, preventing unexpected accidents. Set a schedule and stick to it, even when you feel like you don’t have to go.
Timing food and drinks: Scheduling when you eat and drink can help you know better when it’s time to go to the restroom.
Surgery is often only used in more extreme cases, but it is an option depending on your situation. The surgeries most typically offered to men with incontinence are:
Sling surgery: The surgeon will use a synthetic material to create a pouch, or a “sling,” to support your bladder neck. This prevents stress incontinence links.
Balloon surgery: A surgeon inserts an artificial urinary sphincter (AUS) balloon around the bladder neck, helping to shut off the “valve” until you’re ready to urinate.
How to manage daily male incontinence
While you’re working to treat or cure your incontinence, simple changes to your day-to-day life can help improve your daily quality of life and make incontinence easy to manage.
Incontinence products: An easy, cheap option for managing daily incontinence is the use of incontinence products for men. These specially designed absorbent underwear guards can help you prevent spots and wetness. They can be worn discreetly and easily under clothes.
Catheters: If you’re having trouble fully emptying your bladder, a medical professional may suggest the use of a catheter.
Collection systems: As a short-term solution, a condom catheter (worn over the penis) is a noninvasive solution for collecting leaks.
With the right products and the support of your medical professional, incontinence does not have to rule or negatively impact your life.