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Urinary Incontinence in Men

Urinary incontinence is any accidental leaking of urine. It’s not just a medical problem; it can also cause embarrassment, social isolation and depression that may keep you from enjoying your life. Many men with incontinence are afraid to do normal activates and worry about being too far from the bathroom.

Bladder control problems are relatively common and affect over 5 million men in the United States, but men often wait over 4 years before seeing a doctor about it and think it is a normal part of aging. Incontinence is not considered to be a “normal part of aging” because it is a treatable problem.

Common types of male incontinence are stress incontinence (urine leaks out when you cough, sneeze, or lift something heavy), urge incontinence (leakage accompanied by a strong, uncontrollable urge to go to the bathroom), and overflow incontinence (frequent dribbling of urine due to a bladder that doesn’t empty all of the way). A common cause of overflow incontinence is an enlarged prostate, which crowds the urethra and affect the flow of the urinary stream. The most common symptoms of an enlarged prostate are a hesitant, weak urine stream, urgency and leaking or dribbling, and more frequent urination, especially at night.

For some men, avoiding incontinence can be as simple as lifestyle changes. Some men try to control urine leakage by decreasing fluid intake - but that will cause concentrated, acidic urine which irritates the bladder. Drinking six to eight glasses of fluid a day will dilute urine so that it is non-irritating. You can limit drinking two hours before bedtime to minimize having to get up at night. Avoid drinks and foods that bother the bladder, such as caffeine, alcohol, spicy foods, and artificial sweeteners. A health care provider can also work with men by planning regular trips to the bathroom, slowly extending the time in between trips - a therapy called timed voiding or bladder training.

Physical therapy is a common treatment for some types of incontinence and other pelvic problems. Physical therapists that have advanced training in pelvic problems work with patients to strengthen the pelvic muscles that help hold urine in the bladder.  El Camino Hospital has pelvic floor physical therapists that work with each patient to develop a customized treatment plan. Most patients see significant improvement within eight weeks, and incontinence is usually reduced 80-100%.

Medications are available to help prevent incontinence by blocking abnormal nerve signals that make the bladder contract at the wrong time, while others slow the production of urine. Still others relax the bladder or shrink the prostate. Before prescribing a mediation to treat incontinence, your doctor may consider changing a medication you are currently taking, as certain types of medications can cause or make incontinence worse.

At El Camino Hospital Urology Care, we specialize in surgical options that are minimally invasive. Surgical treatments include removal of the prostate or a sling procedure where mesh-like surgical tape is placed to provide support for the urethra. These procedures are typically done outpatient or a short hospital stay.

Remember, loss of bladder control is very common and nothing to be ashamed about. Don’t let it keep you from enjoying your life - speak with your doctor and work together to find the right course of action for you.

By Athena Lendvay, BSN, RN, OCN, Pelvic Health Program Coordinator

This article first appeared in the March 2016 edition of the HealthPerks newsletter.

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