Almost three million men in the UK experience incontinence. Some may notice a moderate amount of leakage, while others will experience a lot more. It is nothing to be ashamed of and, regardless of the type of condition, there are ways to manage and treat male incontinence.
Types of male incontinence
There are three main types of incontinence affecting men:
This is the most common form of incontinence in men. It is often connected to an enlarged prostate, or prostate surgery. The main symptom of overflow incontinence is the inability to fully empty the bladder.
Men experience stress incontinence when external pressure on the bladder causes urine to leak. This can be triggered by running, coughing or laughing. It’s important to manage the condition so you can continue to lead a full life.
Men who have urge incontinence will experience a strong and sudden urge to go. This can make it difficult to reach the toilet in time. The bladder may also contract without warning, causing involuntary leakage.
Other types of incontinence that may affect men include:
- Functional incontinence doesn’t occur from bladder problems, but rather physical problems making it challenging to get to the toilet.
- Enuresis or bed-wetting affects more adults than you may think. The cause may be stress, a urinary tract infection, a different medical condition, or a side effect of medication.
Common causes of incontinence in men
The main causes of incontinence in men relate to the prostate. For example, incontinence can result from an enlarged prostate, prostate cancer, or a result of prostate surgery. This is because it causes damage to the sphincter, which is the circular muscle controlling the flow of urine out of the bladder. If this cannot squeeze tightly and close off the urethra, it causes urine to leak.
Male urinary incontinence can be caused by other medical conditions, including stroke, nervous system disorders like Parkinson’s disease, or injury to the spinal cord. Certain medications, nutritional deficiencies, surgery, birth defects, or chronic medical conditions such as diabetes can also cause incontinence in men.
Temporary causes of male incontinence
In some cases, incontinence may be temporary or reversible. Examples of conditions which can cause short-term bladder leakage in men include:
- Urinary tract infections: when the UTI is treated – often with a short course of antibiotics – incontinence usually stops.
- Constipation: the rectum is located behind the bladder and shares the same nervous systems. Compacted stools can cause these nerves to be overactive and increase the need to urinate.
- Weakened pelvic floor muscles: Kegel muscles support all the pelvic organs. By doing exercises to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles, it reduces the likelihood of incontinence.
- Obesity: being overweight increases pressure on the bladder and can lead to incontinence.
Risk factors for men
For your body to store and release urine successfully, pelvic floor muscles must work together with nerve systems that control bladder function. This complex arrangement can be susceptible to scrambled information, causing urinary incontinence. Some of the most common incontinence risk factors for men include:
- Major depression
- Prostate issues
- Neurological diseases, including Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and Parkinson’s Disease
- Spinal cord injury
The most frequent causes of urinary incontinence in men are prostate problems, and the methods required to treat them. Common prostate problems include:
- Prostatitis: an infection of the prostate gland that may relate to a urinary tract infection.
- Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH): this can cause the prostate to get bigger, and usually starts around middle age. Around a quarter of men suffering from BPH will need surgery or medical treatment. The condition does not lead to cancer.
- Prostate cancer: the probability of getting prostate cancer increases with age. However, prostate cancer is usually one of the most responsive cancers to treatment.
If incontinence is the result of surgery, bladder control is usually restored within six to 18 months.
Early diagnosis is important to encourage successful treatment. Doctors recommend yearly prostate exams for men over 50, or from 40 for those with a family history of prostate cancer.
Incontinence advice for men
The severity of urinary incontinence in men varies from hardly noticeable to more severe. Millions of men suffer from incontinence and it is nothing to be ashamed of. Understanding your body makes it easier to take control of your condition, and get the help needed to continue living your life with confidence.
While incontinence can be distressing, there are many treatments and management options available. To understand the best incontinence treatment, it’s best to speak to a doctor.
Incontinence products for men
Using absorbent products will help you maintain a normal lifestyle while working to regain bladder control. Depend® Shields and Depend® Guards are specially designed to provide light protection against incontinence for the male anatomy. Alternatively, Active-Fit underwear is a discreet solution for moderate to severe leakage, and allows you to continue enjoying your favourite activities, worry-free.