About male incontinence
The severity of urinary incontinence in men ranges from an annoying dribble after you have finished urinating, to always feeling that your bladder is full, even after you have just been to the toilet. Some men may also experience varying degrees of unexpected urine loss following prostate surgery. Urinary problems affect every part of your life and can lead to some men not wanting to be socially active.
Urinary incontinence is known to affect 13% of Aussie men and up to 30% of men over the age of 70 years. Prostate disease is the main reason men experience urinary leakage. Men with enlarged prostates report experiencing urgency, a sudden and powerful urge to go to the toilet that gives you very little time to get to the bathroom and frequency, needing to empty your bladder much more frequently than you think is normal.
Understanding your body makes it easier to take control and get the help you need to live your life as you want. In this article, we’ll start out with an overview of male incontinence and the three main variations. We will then identify some of the most common causes and treatments of male incontinence. Knowing the basics will help you understand your needs and how best to talk with your doctor or health care professional. In many cases, bladder control loss can be cured. Almost all cases can be managed.
Male incontinence types
There are five main types of male incontinence:
- Stress incontinence:This type of male incontinence occurs when outside pressure causes an already weakened bladder to leak urine. This outside pressure may come in the form of a cough, laugh or from lifting a heavy object.
- Urge incontinence: This kind of male incontinence occurs when you get an extremely strong and sudden urge to go to the toilet, but you don’t always make it in time. Your bladder may also contract without you wanting it to, causing involuntary urine leakage.
- Urinary Frequency: Refers to the need to empty your bladder much more frequently than you think is normal.
- Overactive Bladder: Many men experience a combination of urinary urge and frequency. This condition is known as an overactive bladder syndrome or OAB. OAB can sometimes be accompanied by urinary leakage, OAB-wet and sometimes not, OAB-dry. In many cases OAB is distressing as it effects your social confidence.
- Overflow incontinence: This variation of male incontinence occurs when an outlet obstruction like an enlarged prostate prevents you from fully emptying your bladder. The bladder overfills and leaks out the excess urine, just like over filling a cup.
Male incontinence causes
Male incontinence can be caused by a damaged or narrowing of the urethra, the exit tube from the bladder, nerve damage, infections of the urinary tract or prostate. Many men also experience some short-term urinary incontinence following prostate surgery.
Prostate problems and the treatments required to correct them are the most frequent causes of urinary incontinence in men.
Common prostate problems:
- Prostatitis is infection of the prostate gland. This infection is more commonly seen in younger men.
- Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) BPH is not cancer. It is where the prostate increases in size and hardness causing a tightening around the urethra that restrict the flow of urine. This problem usually affects middle age men. About 1 in 4 men will need surgery or medical treatment for BPH.
- Prostate cancer is the most common cancer affecting men. It may not produce urinary incontinence symptoms, however, the highly effective treatments used to cure the cancer often does. In many cases the resulting urinary incontinence will get better but in some cases, remains.
Because early diagnosis is key to successful treatment, doctors recommend yearly prostate exams for men over the age of 50. Men with a family history of prostate cancer should begin these check-ups at age 40.
Most men have temporary incontinence following surgery for prostate cancer. The degree to which incontinence occurs, and the severity of it, varies with each man. While incontinence can be distressing, there are many treatments and management options available. Using absorbent products will help you maintain a normal lifestyle while you are working to regain bladder control. Depend® Guards for Men, for example, are specially designed for the male anatomy.
The good news is that it generally lessens within six months to one year. In many cases, continence is fully restored.
Male urinary incontinence can also be caused by other medical conditions, including nervous system disorders or injury (Parkinson’s disease, stroke or spinal cord injury); certain medications, or chronic medical conditions such as diabetes.
The good news is that, in many cases, incontinence can be cured and it can always be managed.
Find out more about incontinence causes.
To understand the problem, it helps to understand how your urinary system actually functions.
- Kidneys filter urine from the blood and this is stored in your bladder.
- The bladder is a hollow muscular organ that holds the urine until you decide that you feel full (hopefully at about 350-400mls).
- When you reach the toilet, you relax your pelvic floor muscles and your brain gives permission for the bladder muscle to contract, squeezing the urine out through the urethra – the tube from the bladder to the outside.
- When the bladder muscle contracts, the internal and external sphincters that hold the bladder outlet tube (urethra) shut during storage, relax allowing urine to pass through. In men, the internal urinary sphincter, is located just below the prostate and the external sphincter muscle surrounds the entire urethra.
- The whole system is supported by the muscles of the pelvic floor that run from the tip of your tailbone through to the pubic bone (the front bone of your pelvis).
Urine is about 95% water and 5% waste. Some people incorrectly believe that by drinking less fluid, they will reduce their bladder control loss. In fact, urine that is more concentrated due to lack of fluid intake and can cause more serious problems such as infections and dehydration. In addition, inadequate fluid intake can cause constipation, which may also make matters worse.
Kimberly-Clark makes no warranties or representations regarding the completeness or accuracy of the information. This information should be used only as a guide and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional medical or other health professional advice.