Urinary incontinence in men can be a difficult subject to bring up, but the problem is common and will only get more so as the population ages.
The Mayo Clinic says that somewhere between 3% and 10% of men will experience urinary incontinence at some point in their lives, a number that increases as men get older. One Australian study found almost 15% of men 70 years old and older experience incontinence.
So, what’s urinary incontinence, why does it happen more often as men age, and what can be done about it?
What is incontinence?
Our bladders hold urine, and when we go to the bathroom, the urinary sphincter opens and allows urine to flow into the urethra and out of our bodies. Incontinence, which is the inopportune leaking of urine from the bladder, comes in several forms.
- Overflow incontinence comes when urine leaks from an overfull bladder.
- Urge incontinence takes place when the urge to pee is so strong and/or comes on so quickly that the person doesn’t have time to get to the bathroom.
- Functional incontinence happens in people who have trouble getting to the bathroom on time due to issues unrelated to bladder control, such as from severe arthritis or trouble walking.
- Stress incontinence, which is more common in women than men, happens when urine leaks after pressure is put on the bladder, for example after someone sneezes, coughs or laughs.
Why is urinary incontinence more common as men age?
- Prostate: The most common cause of incontinence in older men is their prostates. The prostate, an almond-sized gland, surrounds the opening to a man’s bladder. As he ages, the prostate gland grows, which can put pressure on the bladder or restrict the opening to the urethra.
Noncancerous but more severe growth of the prostate is called benign prostatic hyperplasia, or an enlarged prostate. Treatments for prostate cancer like surgery or radiation can also result in incontinence.
- Muscle degradation: The bladder’s walls are also muscles, and as we age, we can lose strength and tone in our muscles.
- Diseases: Illnesses that are more common as we age – such as Alzheimer’s, diabetes, strokes and Parkinson’s disease – can all cause incontinence issues.
- Medications: Older adults are more likely to be on medications, some of which can cause incontinence.
What should I do?
If you are a man who is experiencing urinary incontinence, you can ask your doctor about trying certain medications, therapies, and even surgeries to improve your incontinence.
However, if you want an easier solution, you can also try making smaller lifestyle changes, such as drinking less caffeine and alcohol, to help improve things as well. (However, you should never restrict the amount of water you drink).
If that’s not enough, there also are a variety of products designed to help men who are experiencing temporary or long-term incontinence that you can use.
- Incontinence pads, such as these ones the Contour Plus bladder control pads from Medline or the bladder control pads from CardinalHealth, can help trap smaller leaks and also have odor control.
- Incontinence underwear with elastic sides, such as these adult incontinence underwear from CardinalHealth or these adult extra protective underwear from Medline, provide a discreet appearance and are useful for moderate leaks.
- Incontinence briefs, such as these from Medline or these from CardinalHealth, provide the most protection for those experiencing full bladder leaks and have Velcro tabs for getting them on and off easily.
- Disposable pads, such as these from Medline or these from CardinalHealth, have a waterproof backing, are helpful for keeping leaks off of furniture and beds.
No matter what, though, if you’re dealing with incontinence, you should seek the advice of a medical professional.
Though it may be a difficult subject to broach, every man experiencing urinary incontinence should discuss it with his doctor. It may be a symptom of a more serious matter that needs attention or there may be a relatively easy fix to the situation – such as switching medications.