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What Causes Incontinence in Men?

September 05, 2017 | Dr. Gregory Cook

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incontinence in menUrinary incontinence can control your life if you let it.

Rather than risk an accident, some men stay home, leading to isolation and physical inactivity. Before you know it, depression sets in and overall health begins to decline as well.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

First, some background. Urinary incontinence occurs in 11 to 34 percent of older men, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease. So, while this may seem incredibly embarrassing, it’s also incredibly common.

There are five different kinds of urinary incontinence in men:

  • Urgency incontinence is also referred to as “overactive bladder.” It is an involuntary loss of urine that usually occurs when a person has a strong, sudden need to urinate.
  • Stress incontinence results when pressure is put on the bladder, such as coughing or physical activity.
  • Overflow incontinence happens when the bladder doesn’t empty properly, causing urine to spill over.
  • Functional incontinence occurs when a disability prevents a man from reaching the bathroom in time.
  • Transient incontinence lasts only a short time and is often a side effect of medication.

Urinary incontinence can have many different causes, including diabetes, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease and even urinary tract infections. Incontinence also can occur after treatment for prostate cancer. Sometimes—especially with urgency incontinence—there is no known cause.

But one of the most common—and treatable—causes of urgency incontinence is benign prostatic hyperplasia (also known as an enlarged prostate). As the prostate enlarges, it presses on the urethra, causing a frequent or urgent need to urinate.

The good news is that symptoms can be improved—or completely resolved— for many cases of urinary incontinence.

One especially effective new treatment is the UroLift System for an enlarged prostate. The procedure, which can be done in an outpatient setting, has been shown to have no negative effect on sexual function and can restore full urinary function within about one month. Following a local anesthesia, the doctor introduces a fine instrument via cystoscope that “lifts” and secures the enlarged prostate tissue outward, opening the urine channel and enabling better flow.

Another promising new treatment for urgency incontinence is Botox, which we all know is more commonly used to smooth wrinkles by relaxing facial muscles. To treat incontinence, a doctor applies a numbing agent and uses a cystoscope to insert Botox into the bladder wall. One treatment typically relieves overactive bladder symptoms for three to nine months.

Yet another new available outpatient treatment is the Rezum, during which superheated water (steam) is injected into the prostate, resulting in an open urinary channel.

Often, simple lifestyle changes—such as quitting smoking or losing weight—can make a big difference in quality of life and incontinence symptoms.

The one thing you shouldn’t do is allow urinary incontinence to control you. Rather than address the problem, some people choose to check out of their old lives. Outings with friends, vacations and even trips to the grocery store begin to seem like opportunities for embarrassment. This isolation results in the decline of one’s mental and physical health.

Urinary incontinence is a common condition that often can be completely resolved—or at least managed. Contact us today to take control of your health—and your life.

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