Incontinence is a medical condition caused by the unintentional leakage of urine. While incontinence is more common in women, men may also experience symptoms of incontinence. Luckily, incontinence is a treatable condition. Depending on the type, a treatment plan is customized according to patients’ needs and desired outcomes.
The prostate gland, in combination with aging, is one of the chief causes of incontinence in men. Because the male sex organ enlarges as men age – commonly presented as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) – it may put pressure on the urethra affecting the urine stream.
Common types of urinary incontinence
- Most often, men experience overflow incontinence. Indicated by a full bladder sensation after urination, men will continue to leak after and between bathroom trips. Treatment options for overflow incontinence will vary and may include a temporary or permanent catheter, medication, minimally invasive thermotherapies, laser therapy or entire prostate removal.
- Urge incontinence, or overactive bladder (OAB), occurs in men when the bladder squeezes without warning and control. Symptoms may include a frequent urge to urinate. In some cases men may experience an urge that arises so quickly they are unable to reach a bathroom before voiding begins. Kegel exercises, biofeedback therapy, medications, Urgent PC, Interstim, Botox injections and double voiding strategies may help male patients improve urge incontinence symptoms.
- Stress incontinence occurs most often in females, but men can also suffer from these symptoms. Ticks such as a sneeze, laugh, cough or any other movement that stresses or strains the bladder may cause leakage. A patient may experience stress incontinence as a result of nerve damage to the sphincter, the muscle that maintains bladder control, or from a prostate removal. Men experiencing this form of incontinence may opt for biofeedback training, muscle strengthening, minor office procedures or surgery as a treatment option.
Behavioral modifications that can help urinary incontinence
- Set daily bathroom times – Setting and sticking to a voiding schedule will help regulate bodily functions. Recording all bathroom trips in a diary and sharing them with your urologist may help your doctor create future treatment plans.
- Double voiding – This practice requires the patient to urinate as much as possible, relax for several seconds, and again resume voiding to empty the bladder in full.
- Incorporate Kegels into a daily routine – This simple pelvic floor exercise will help strengthen the muscles surrounding, and involved in, the release of the bladder. To find this group of muscles, begin urinating and halfway through the void, slow and stop the flow. These are the muscles needed to properly perform a Kegel. To strengthen the pelvic floor, contract and release this group of muscles in intervals of ten three times daily.
Lifestyle factors that can help urinary incontinence
Male incontinence is not a disease, rather a symptom most often linked to aging or a malfunctioning bladder. With that in mind, there are several nonmedical lifestyle changes that will likely improve incontinence symptom severity as well as overall health.
- Limiting alcohol and caffeine – Because both alcohol and caffeine are diuretics, they increase the need to urinate. Limiting these will help reduce trips to the bathroom.
- Improve diet – Increasing fiber consumption will reduce constipation and overall functionality of the digestive and urinary tract systems. Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, as well as supplementing with fiber tablets, may help decrease urinary leakage.
- Exercise regularly – Aim to exercise moderately to vigorously five times weekly. Choose enjoyable activities to sustain a regular schedule. Yoga and Pilates, for instance, target the lower abdominal muscles and will help a patient locate and strengthen Kegel muscles.
If behavioral and lifestyle changes do not yield satisfactory results, in some cases, patients may opt for surgery to eliminate symptoms. Men who experience incontinence may be treated with surgery after exhausting other options such as Interstim neuromodulation, Urgent PC, Botox injections or use of anticholinergic drugs.
Surgical treatment for incontinence may involve the partial or complete removal of the prostate or the use of an artificial sphincter – an inflatable rubber device that fits around the urethra to control urine stream by either inflating or deflating it.