Male bladder leakage – or UI — has many different causes. Your treatment options will depend on which type of UI you have.
Bladder leakage – otherwise known as Urinary Incontinence, or UI – is a relatively common condition in men, especially those of advanced age; according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, between 11 and 34 percent of older men suffer from it.
However, UI in men isn’t limited to the elderly. Many non-age-related factors may contribute to it, including prostate problems, nerve damage, excessive consumption of alcohol and/or caffeine, and obesity.
Causes of male UI
The male urinary tract is a complex system in which urine is processed in the kidneys, drains from it via two narrow tubes called ureters, and accumulates in the bladder, from which – at the time of urination — it is later evacuated through a channel called the urethra.
As the bladder fills with urine, nerves in the walls of the bladder send signals to the brain that manifest themselves as feelings of growing discomfort and a definite – but not necessarily urgent — need to urinate. Once a suitable opportunity for urinating has been found, the brain sends signals which activate multiple sets of muscles in the urethra, bladder neck, and in the pelvic floor to begin the urination process. Ordinarily, the whole system works amazingly well, with minimal or no bladder leakage at all.
Unfortunately, the normal functioning of the urinary tract can become disrupted when, for example, the nervous system fails to relay the correct signals back and forth, when the various sets of muscles involved in urination do not contract or relax as they should, or when other issues – such as pressure on the bladder caused by obesity, or pinching of the urethra because of an enlarged prostate – come into play.
Lifestyle factors may influence a man’s susceptibility to UI. For example, excess consumption of alcohol, caffeine, or tobacco can compound UI issues, and so excess body weight, a condition which can place added pressure both on the bladder and on the pelvic floor muscles, whose proper operation is required for normal urination to occur.
What can a man do?
If you are a man for whom bladder leakage has or is becoming an issue, your first step should be to consult your physician about your problem. While it’s possible that your UI is caused by a simple, easily correctable problem, some causes of male UI may themselves be symptoms of serious underlying diseases, including Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, a pre-cancerous prostate, or stroke. Obviously, it’s very important to either rule these causes out or – if detected – work with your physician to develop a treatment plan.
Provided that you and your doctor have ruled out the serious diseases referenced above, there are steps you can take to make your situation better. Your specific treatment plan will depend on which particular type of UI you’re experiencing.
Five main types of UI in men have been identified, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases:
- Urge incontinence: involuntary urination immediately following a strong urge to urinate.
- Stress incontinence: involuntary urination caused by pressure on the bladder, often precipitated by coughing, sneezing, laughing, or lifting. This type of incontinence is often seen in men recovering from prostate surgery.
- Functional incontinence: one simply can’t get to the bathroom in time, perhaps due to mobility issues.
- Overflow incontinence: often caused by weakened bladder muscles or a blocked urethra.
- Transient incontinence: often due to unwanted side effects of certain medications
Once you and your doctor have identified the particular kind of UI you’re experiencing, you can move ahead with treatment options, of which there are many. For example, to treat urge and stress incontinence, behavioral/lifestyle changes and Kegel exercises (also known as Pelvic Floor Muscle Training) may be recommended. For transient incontinence issues, medication doses may need to be evaluated and, perhaps, adjusted downward. Surgical options, biofeedback and/or medication may also be recommended if milder treatment methods fail to achieve results.
Regardless of what particular type of UI you suffer from, or what your treatment options are, there are many good products on the market, including washable briefs, protective pads with odor control, and disposable pads and liners that can help you deal with the immediate issue of bladder leakage.
If you’re a man – and you suffer from UI – don’t keep silent about it. Far too many men (and women, too) are so embarrassed by UI that they refuse to discuss the issue – even with their own physician. Instead, talk candidly with your doctor about what you’re going through, work with him/her to identify the specific kind of UI that’s affecting you, and then take action!