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Understanding male urinary incontinence

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

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.1,2

Urge incontinence

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.2,3

Mixed incontinence

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.2,4

Approximately 1 in 10 American men have urinary incontinence with rates rising in men over 60 years old.5

What to know about causes and treatments

Men suffering from bladder leakage may feel isolated and embarrassed. They may also feel like they are the only one facing this issue.

Approximately 9-16% of men have persistent post-prostatectomy leakage 1 year after treatment.6

One symptom, many causes

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.7

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.

Treatment options

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.


  1. Stress Incontinence. Mayo Clinic Website. Accessed June 2024.
  2. Abrams P, Andersson KE, Birder L, et al. Fourth International Consultation on Incontinence recommendations of the International Scientific Committee: evaluation and treatment of urinary incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse, and fecal incontinence. Neurourol Urodyn. 2010;29(1):213-40.
  3. Types of Urinary Incontinence. WebMD Website. Accessed June 2024.
  4. Mixed Incontinence. WebMD Website. Accessed June 2024.
  5. Markland AD, Goode PS, Redden DT, et al. Prevalence of urinary incontinence in men: results from the national health and nutrition examination survey. J Urol. 2010 Sep;184(3):1022-7.
  6. Ficarra V, Novara G, Rosen RC, et al. Systematic review and meta-analysis of studies reporting urinary continence recovery after robot-assisted radical prostatectomy. Eur Urol. 2012 Sep;62(3):405-17.
  7. Mayo Clinic. Urinary incontinence in men. June 2014. Accessed June 2024.