Urinary Incontinence – A Common Condition in Men
Bladder control problems range from urinating too frequently to actual urine leakage (urinary incontinence). The severity of urinary incontinence ranges from occasionally leaking urine when you cough or sneeze to having an urge to urinate that’s so sudden that you don’t get to the toilet in time.
If urinary incontinence affects your day-to-day activities, don’t hesitate to see your urologist. In most cases, simple lifestyle changes or medical treatment can ease your discomfort or stop urinary incontinence.
Types of Urinary Incontinence
- Urge incontinence (Overactive Bladder) – This is a sudden intense urge to urinate, followed by an involuntary loss of urine. Your bladder muscle contracts and may give you a warning of only a few seconds to a minute to reach the bathroom. With urge incontinence, you may need to urinate often, including throughout the night. Urge incontinence may be caused by urinary tract infections, bladder irritants, bowel problems, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, injury, or nervous system damage associated with multiple sclerosis. If there’s no known cause, urge incontinence is also called overactive bladder.
- Stress incontinence – The loss of urine when you exert pressure or put stress on your bladder by coughing, sneezing, laughing, exercising, or lifting something heavy. Stress incontinence occurs when the sphincter muscle of the bladder is weakened. In women, physical changes resulting from pregnancy, childbirth, and menopause can cause stress incontinence. In men, removal of the prostate gland can lead to this type of incontinence.
- Overflow incontinence – If you frequently or constantly dribble urine you may have overflow incontinence, which is an inability to empty your bladder. Sometimes you may feel as if you never completely empty your bladder. When you try to urinate, you may produce only a weak stream of urine. This type of incontinence may occur in people with a damaged bladder, blocked urethra, nerve damage from diabetes, and in men with prostate gland problems.
- Mixed incontinence – If you experience symptoms of more than one type of urinary incontinence, such as stress incontinence and urge incontinence, you have mixed incontinence.
- Functional incontinence – Many older adults, especially people in nursing homes, experience incontinence simply because a physical or mental impairment keeps them from making it to the toilet in time. For example, a person with severe arthritis may not be able to unbutton his or her pants quickly enough. This is called functional incontinence.
- Gross total incontinence – This term is sometimes used to describe continuous leaking of urine, day and night, or the periodic uncontrollable leaking of large amounts of urine. In such cases, the bladder has no storage capacity. Some people have this type of incontinence because they were born with an anatomical defect. This type of incontinence can be caused by injuries to the spinal cord or urinary system or by an abnormal opening (fistula) between the bladder and an adjacent structure, such as the vagina.
When to See a Urologist
You may feel uncomfortable discussing incontinence with your doctor. But if incontinence is frequent or is affecting your quality of life, seeking medical advice is important for several reasons:
- Urinary incontinence may indicate a more serious underlying condition, especially if it’s associated with blood in your urine.
- Urinary incontinence may be causing you to restrict your activities and limit your social interactions to avoid embarrassment.
- Urinary incontinence may increase the risk of falls in older adults as they rush to make it to the toilet.