Incontinence, also known as bladder leakage, can stop you from living the active life you once lived and make you feel alone and isolated. For many men, leaking urine can mean embarrassment and feeling depressed.
Stress urinary incontinence (SUI) occurs when physical movement or activity — such as coughing, laughing, sneezing or heavy lifting — puts pressure or stress on a man’s bladder. SUI is not related to psychological stress. In men, the most common cause of stress urinary incontinence is the surgical removal of the prostate gland to treat prostate cancer. This procedure is called a prostatectomy.2,3
Urge incontinence (also known as overactive bladder [OAB]) is diagnosed when a man has an overwhelming need to urinate (gotta go, gotta go!) that may prevent reaching the toilet in time. Causes of overactive bladder include damage to the bladder’s nerves, damage to other parts of the nervous system and damage to the muscles. Multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes and stroke can affect nerves and lead to urge incontinence.3,4
Mixed incontinence is present when a man suffers from symptoms of both stress urinary incontinence and urge incontinence. A man has mixed incontinence if he leaks urine when he sneezes, coughs, laughs, exercises or lifts something heavy AND leaks urine after a sudden urge to urinate, while he sleeps, after drinking water, or hearing or touching water. Mixed incontinence shares the causes of both SUI and urge incontinence.3,5
Occasional leaks, wet pants, and a frequent or sudden need to urinate can happen at any age. Bladder leakage in men is usually caused by a damaged sphincter muscle or improperly functioning bladder (the sphincter is the circular muscle that controls urine flow out of the bladder). Short-term bladder leakage can also result from some medications or urinary tract infections. Incontinence due to nerve or muscle damage may cause longer-term leakage.9 Whatever the reason, incontinence can affect your self-image and your ability to enjoy life. If you have adjusted your life due to urine leakage, you may want to work with a urologist who specializes in bladder control.
With a thorough evaluation of your bladder leakage symptoms, your doctor may recommend changes to your daily routine, such as avoiding caffeine and alcohol. You may modify your fluid intake and follow a voiding schedule to try to train your bladder. Your physician may also recommend pelvic floor exercises to tighten the sphincter muscles. If bladder leakage remains, some men cope by using absorbent pads and protective undergarments. Others use special devices to try to prevent urine leakage. If bladder leakage becomes a burden and affects your happiness, you can talk to a urologist specializing in male incontinence about options to restore bladder control.
When a man lives with the burden of incontinence, his family and friends experience it with him — whether disposing of pads or dealing with his feelings of depression and social isolation.1 Understanding how incontinence affects his life will help you provide the support he needs.
Bladder leakage is a very difficult thing for any man to deal with. He is constantly distracted as he thinks about his next potential accident. As the caretaker, you’re often the first one to observe how incontinence negatively affects his life. If you are a partner, your shared intimacy may suffer. You may wish you could fix his bladder leakage so his normalcy could be restored. The key is to show him that you support him regardless of his struggles with incontinence. Fortunately, he does have options and with you as his advocate, you can conquer bladder leakage together.
Managing bladder problems at work can create additional stress and disrupt productivity. Incontinence may cause him to make frequent restroom visits and in turn, disrupt essential job activities. Trying to be discrete through multiple pad changes can also be challenging. He may fear that he smells like urine or that his co-workers have noticed his frequent bathroom trips. The good news is that he can regain a normal work routine and renew confidence by seeing a urologist specializing in the treatment of male incontinence.
Downtime with incontinence is not necessarily a break. With incontinence, he may feel embarrassed, isolate himself or limit his social life, especially exercise and leisure activities. He may give up some of his favorite pastimes due to fear of an accident. In your quest to spend time together, your activity level may also be impacted. If he ultimately pulls back and isolates himself, it may be time for more advanced treatment options. Once you seek treatment, the two of you will likely be able to manage his incontinence and improve his overall well-being.