Helpful Ways to Handle Your Incontinence: Male Edition
As men age, the simple act of urinating can get complicated, according to Harvard Medical School. Leakage can sometimes occur when someone coughs, sneezes or just gets up from a chair. Or the bladder may become impatient, signaling a sudden need to use the bathroom right now.
“Thousands of years ago, it was not as much of an issue,” observes Dr. Anurag Das, a urologist at Harvard's Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. “There were lots of trees, and you could just find one and go.”
But going wherever and whenever is not possible in the 21st century, which makes releasing the bladder, especially one that is having issues, a bit more tricky. The accidental leakage of urine is called urinary incontinence. At different ages, males and females have different risks for developing the condition. According to MedicineNet, girls usually develop bladder control at an earlier age than boys, and bedwetting - or nocturnal enuresis - is less common in girls than in boys. However, adult women are far more likely than adult men to experience it because of anatomical differences in the pelvic region and the changes induced by pregnancy and childbirth. Nevertheless, many men do suffer from incontinence. And, the likelihood of having it seems to increase with age.
An important first step is to try and figure out the cause of any leakage issues. Often, physicians can suggest helpful strategies, medications and ideas to help improve urinary control and manage incontinence.
Urinary Incontinence & Men
Urinary incontinence means the accidental or involuntary loss of urine from the bladder, with many cases starting with and/or involving “dribbling” or not making it to the bathroom in time. Most men tend to experience urge or stress incontinence.
The usual causes in men are involuntary contractions of the bladder muscles, which is usually the result of an overactive bladder. This can sometimes be the result of long-term blockage from an enlarged prostate. Feeling the urge to urinate and leaking - a few drips or more - before reaching the bathroom or being triggered by running water, entering a cold room or even standing up after sitting may all signal urge incontinence.
Stress incontinence refers to urinary leakage that usually occurs when coughing, sneezing, lifting a heavy object or engaging in some other activity. In men, this is usually caused by problems in the rings of muscle, or sphincters, that squeeze closed to seal off the bladder.
If the sphincters are weak or damaged, activities such as coughing, running, jumping and sneezing can cause leakage. In men, the most common cause of stress incontinence is sphincter damage after prostate surgery, according to MedicineNet. Radiation treatment for prostate cancer can also cause it.
Get Checked Out
If you or someone you love is experiencing issues, seeing a doctor is an important first step to figure out what may be causing the problem and how severe it is. Knowing the type of incontinence can help address symptoms and determine a treatment plan. Medications, a voiding journal, exercises and absorbent products, or a combination, may be recommended.
For helpful tips, read "5 Questions to Ask Your Doctor About Male Incontinence." See below for more ideas.
Behavioral strategies such as pelvic floor muscle exercises, bladder retraining and dietary modifications are generally considered to be the first line of treatment, according to the National Institute of Health. Self-care is an important component of these strategies.
Take time to learn your body and understand what triggers leakage. Is it a specific type of food? Is it a drink? Perhaps stress? A certain activity? The more answers can help you be better prepared in the future.
Research as much as possible about various products. There are male-specific items such as guards, briefs, underwear and more available. Finding the right leak protection is key in living a full life.
Do a self-inventory. We all have issues in our lives that we need to face or may want to avoid thinking about. Try and address some of the concerns to be better able to focus on the incontinence that is affecting your or your loved one's health and life.
Tips for Managing Incontinence
Have the right products (with the appropriate absorbency and fit) on hand at all times. This can include male guards, pads, disposable chux underpads or even protective underwear to keep dry day or night.
Use protective sheets on bedding and furniture.
Put heavy-duty disposal bags in bathrooms and bedrooms where accidents may happen and cleanup could be necessary.
Strengthen the pelvic floor; Kegels help men too.
Bring an extra bag of clothes and enough diapers, underwear, guards etc in case.
Wear dark slacks in case leaks happen so they can't easily be seen.
Establish a regular bathroom routine to prevent accidents.
Discuss your condition with HR, if that feels comfortable.
Decrease or even eliminate caffeinated drinks such as coffee and some teas that may cause increased urination.
Discuss what is going on with close friends. "We know talking to others about your own bladder leakage can be hard, but if you're really talking to someone close to you, they've likely suspected something was up for a while," according to the National Association for Continence (NAFC).
Plan ahead when invited out. If friends want to go on strenuous hikes, go out for drinks or other activities that are triggers, plan ahead and let them know of any limits to having fun.
With a Spouse, Significant Other or Close Family Member
Keep those close to you in the loop and discuss what is going on regularly. The more included they are, the more comfortable it will be to talk about and manage it.
Address intimacy issues by finding ways to manage incontinence if it does occur.
Male incontinence is more common than people think. Between 2% and 15% of men ages 15 to 64, and 5% to 15% of men over 60 years of age who live at home (as opposed to a nursing home), have incontinence, according to NAFC.
Seeking the advice of a medical professional as well as using incontinence products to help manage incontinence can be the keys to living a full life worry- and leak-free.