Urinary incontinence is a condition where you have trouble controlling your bladder. Most people think of urinary incontinence as only a women’s problem, and true it is more common in women than it is in men; however, incontinence can be an issue for men as well.
On this page, we will discuss what every man should know about male incontinence, how to recognize it, how to treat it, how you may be able to prevent it, and what happens if male incontinence goes untreated.
How Common is Male Incontinence?
Urinary incontinence is often thought of as mainly a female problem; however, it can be quite common in men as well. In fact, over 3 million men in America suffer from urinary incontinence, and despite what you think or may have heard, male incontinence is not a “normal sign of aging.” There are several different types of male urinary incontinence, but the good news is the signs of all types of male incontinence are easily recognizable, and there are many treatment options available.
The Different Types of Male Incontinence
All male incontinence is a condition where you have trouble controlling your bladder and urinate more often than you would like to or have bladder leakage. The different types of male incontinence include the following:
- Stress incontinence – This is the kind of male bladder leakage that occurs from “stress” or pressure put on the bladder, such as when bending, lifting, laughing, or coughing.
- Urge incontinence – This is when a sudden contraction of the bladder causes an urgent need to urinate. Sometimes the feeling is so intense that it can cause pain and a feeling like you will not make it to the bathroom before wetting yourself.
- Mixed incontinence – This is quite common, and it is when you experience a combination of both stress and urge incontinence.
- Overflow incontinence – This is a very common form of male incontinence in older men. Overflow male incontinence happens in men who have difficulty completely emptying their bladder, and they leak unexpectedly. Overflow incontinence is often a sign of prostate problems such as an enlarged prostate. It can even be a sign of prostate cancer.
- Transient incontinence – This is a kind of male incontinence that is temporary due to medications you may be taking, or illness, or injury, or excessive drinking of alcohol, coffee, or other drinks with “diuretic” properties. Transient incontinence usually does not need to be treated and will resolve on its own when the underlying cause is treated or eliminated.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Male Incontinence?
The signs of male incontinence include:
- Increased frequency to urinate, particularly at night.
- Bladder leakage.
- A urine stream that starts and stops during urination.
- A weak urine stream.
- A constant feeling of needing to urinate or feeling that your bladder is full.
- Loss of small amounts of urine when coughing, laughing, or sneezing.
Causes of Male Incontinence
When it comes to male incontinence, it is important to understand that it is not itself a disease or illness but is a condition in men caused by “something else.” In men, that “something else” can be an underlying medical condition such as an enlarged prostate, diabetes, and Parkinson’s disease. Other things that can cause or heighten your risk of developing male incontinence include:
- Post-surgical complications, particularly after prostate cancer
- Overactive bladder (OAB)
- Bladder weakening with age
- Obstruction of the urinary canal
- Genetic conditions
Risk Factors for the Development of Male Incontinence
Factors that can increase your risk of developing male incontinence include the following:
- Age – The older you get, the weaker the muscles in your bladder and urethra get. This is why male incontinence becomes more common as you get older; however, it is not an inevitable condition of old age.
- Obesity – Being a few pounds overweight increases pressure on your bladder and surrounding muscles.
- Constipation – Constipation or difficulty moving your bowels can cause male incontinence because difficulty defecating increases pressure on your bladder.
- Smoking – Tobacco use has been shown to increase your risk of urinary incontinence.
- Family history – If a close family member has urinary incontinence, especially urge incontinence, your risk of developing the condition increases.
How Is Male Incontinence Treated?
The good news is if you are suffering from male incontinence, you do not have to live with it. There are many ways male incontinence can be effectively treated.
- Lifestyle changes – There are certain lifestyle changes you can make, such as quitting smoking and reducing alcohol and caffeine consumption, that can reduce or eliminate certain types of male incontinence. There are also “pelvic exercises” you can learn to do that can improve bladder control. You can also use a technique doctors call “timed voiding,” where you schedule your trips to the bathroom to urinate.
- Medications – The are some medications that have proven effective in treating male incontinence. Alpha-blockers can be used to reduce stress on the bladder, relax muscles and make it easier to empty the bladder. Mirabegron is another medication used to relax the bladder muscle and increase the amount of urine the bladder can hold. Other medication used to shrink an enlarged prostate – if that is found to be the cause of your male incontinence – may be prescribed.
- Surgery and Medical Devices – Surgical interventions to treat male urinary incontinence include procedures to reduce an enlarged prostate or forms of surgery such as “slings” or “artificial urinary sphincters,” which are implanted medical devices used to prevent unintentional urinary leakage.
- Incontinence Clothing and Products – Specialized clothing, pads, drip collectors, and other devices can be used to prevent bladder leakage.
- Testosterone replacement therapy – Research has shown that men with an enlarged prostate, one of the causes of male incontinience, saw a considerable reduction in prostate inflammation after using testosterone preparations for half a year.
If you are experiencing symptoms of male incontinence, see your doctor or urologist, he or she will be able to discuss which male incontinence treatment is right for you based on your age, symptoms, and lifestyle.
Can Male Incontinence be Prevented?
There are some actions and lifestyle changes that may help to prevent or lower your risk of male incontinence. The following could help to reduce your chances of developing a urinary leakage problem in men.
- Try to avoid obesity and maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight could put increased pressure on the bladder.
- Practice pelvic floor exercises.
- Reduce your exposure to bladder irritants, such as coffee and other caffeinated beverages, alcohol, and acidic foods
- Eat a diet rich in fiber, which can prevent constipation, a cause of urinary incontinence.
- If you do not smoke, don’t start; if you do smoke, quit.
What if Male Incontinence Is Left Untreated?
Leaving male urinary incontinence untreated can do more than cause you some disruptions in your day-to-day life; it could lead to some serious health issues. Remember that “male urinary incontinence” is not in and of itself a disease but is a condition caused by or symptom of some other underlying problem. So, ignoring male urinary incontinence means that a serious underlying condition – even some forms of cancer – that is causing your lack of bladder control is going undetected and could get worse.
Beyond that, untreated male incontinence can lead to infections such as urinary tract infections (UTIs). UTIs themselves can cause severe illness. Untreated UTIs can get worse and lead to kidney infections or bladder infections which could get quite severe, even life-threatening.
Beyond such serious complications leaving male bladder incontinence untreated can lead to skin damage and conditions like cellulitis in the area of the buttocks and genitals and take its toll on your emotional and mental health due to the embarrassment of the condition.
Male incontinence can be an embarrassing condition, but it should not be left untreated as it could lead to some severe complications. You do not have to suffer in silence with male incontinence. Today there are many treatment options to help get your issues with incontinence under control. Contact your doctor today or contact HFM Clinic to see what male incontinence treatment options may be right for you!
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