Urinary incontinence (UI) is the accidental leakage of urine.
At different ages, males and females have different risks for developing UI. In childhood, girls usually develop bladder control at an earlier age than boys, and bedwetting, or nocturnal enuresis, is less common in girls than in boys. However, adult women are far more likely than adult men to experience UI because of anatomical differences in the pelvic region and the changes induced by pregnancy and childbirth. Nevertheless, many men do suffer from incontinence. Its prevalence increases with age, but UI is not an inevitable part of aging.
What causes UI in men?
For the urinary system to do its job, muscles and nerves must work together to hold urine in the bladder and then release it at the right time. Nerves carry signals from the brain through the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord), then down the spinal cord to both the bladder and the sphincter. Nerves carry signals from the brain to the bladder and sphincter. Any disease, condition, or injury that damages nerves can lead to urination problems.
Any disease, condition, or injury that damages nerves can lead to urination problems. Nerve problems can occur at any age. Men who have had diabetes for many years may develop nerve damage that affects their bladder control. Stroke, Parkinson’s disease, and multiple sclerosis all affect the brain and nervous system, so they can also cause bladder emptying problems. Overactive bladder is a condition in which the bladder squeezes at the wrong time. The condition may be caused by nerve problems, or it may occur without any clear cause
The prostate is a male gland about the size and shape of a walnut. It surrounds the urethra just below the bladder, where it adds fluid to semen before ejaculation. A man who has benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) or benign prostatic hypertrophy may have a prostate that is enlarged, squeezing the urethra and affecting the flow of the urine. Prostate treatments such as a radical prostatectomy or external beam radiation may result in either temporary or permanent bladder problems.
UI is a treatable condition.
To find a treatment that addresses the root of the problem, an assessment of your form of UI is necessary. There are three forms of UI:
- Stress Incontinence, which is the involuntary loss of urine during actions, such as coughing, sneezing, and lifting, that put abdominal pressure on the bladder
- Urge Incontinence, which is the involuntary loss of urine following an overwhelming urge to urinate that cannot be halted
- Overflow Incontinence, which is the constant dribbling of urine usually associated with urinating frequently and in small amounts
No single treatment works for everyone. Your treatment will depend on the type and severity of your problem, your lifestyle, and your preferences, starting with the simpler treatment options. Many men regain urinary control by changing a few habits and doing exercises to strengthen the muscles that hold urine in the bladder. If these behavioral treatments do not work, you may choose to try medicines or a continence device, either an artificial sphincter or a catheter. For some men, surgery is the best choice.