Urinary Incontinence in Men – Symptoms and its Causes

Urinary incontinence refers to the involuntary passage of urine at anytime, anywhere. This is a symptom of an underlying medical problem affecting different people from different countries.  In the UK alone, over 5 million suffer from incontinence and more than 60% are men over 40. The actual number may be higher than the statistics because many who have this problem do not seek professional help due to shame, embarrassment and ignorance.

What are the symptoms of urinary incontinence?

Symptoms may vary from person to person but they all have something in common, a leaky bladder. A normal urinary system works at disposing of the body’s liquid waste product through the urine, which the kidneys produce and stored in the bladder. A healthy bladder can hold urine for more than 4 hours and can delay urination until it is convenient for the person to urinate.

When a person becomes incontinent, small leaks or dribbles escape from the bladder at the slightest effort. Coughing, sneezing, laughing or straining can bring about an uncontrollable passage of urine. The sudden force of action opens the urethra and small amounts of urine leaks out. This condition is called stress incontinence and is the most common type of urinary incontinence in men.

The need to void that occurs with acute urgency is a common symptom of urge incontinence. The bladder contracts to expel urine and the pelvic floor muscles fail to tighten to close the urethra and prevent leaking. The “accidental” leakage causes embarrassment and anxiety especially when it happens during an activity or in public.

Overflow incontinence is prevalent in older men who have an enlarged prostate gland. The swollen gland constricts the urethra and blocks the flow of urine. Because of this, the bladder fails to empty completely thus, it is always half-full. The bladder fills quickly and the person needs to urinate more frequently. The retained urine may cause urinary tract infections or may develop into kidney stones or renal calculi.

With functional incontinence, there is nothing wrong with the urinary system. The problem lies with the person’s incapability of recognizing the urge to urinate and failing to perform the process of urination. Persons suffering from depression do not care about personal needs and are even despondent to take care of themselves.

What causes urinary incontinence?

There are many causes of incontinence and a person may have one or more symptoms that may go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. By seeking medical help from a professional health care provider such as the GP or urologist, symptoms are noted and confirmed with laboratory tests and physical examinations. All types of urinary incontinence have a common denominator, a weak bladder and or loose pelvic floor muscles.

A man of advance age who has stress incontinence may have loose pelvic floor muscles due to the diminished supply of oestrogen that help tighten the muscles and along with the enlarged prostate gland, continence is lost. Urge incontinence, also known as overactive bladder, is caused by damaged bladder nerves that send signals to the brain that the bladder is filling up and needs to void.

Overflow incontinence is caused by the blockage in the urethral tubes or in the urethra. Calcified minerals and salt that develops into stones may have found its way down the urethral tubes from the kidneys and block the passage of urine. Strictures or narrowing of the urinary tracts due to previous surgical procedures involving the prostate gland can cause a weak stream during urination.

People who are suffering from spinal cord injuries and are bed-ridden or cannot walk without assistance have trouble performing the urination process by themselves. The nerves along the spine are damaged and cannot send signals to the brain failing to notice that the bladder is filled. Deeply depressed persons have conscious recognition of the need to void but are too disconsolate to use the toilet.

Almost all types of urinary incontinence in men are treatable and manageable. Seeking medical attention at the onset of the symptoms can greatly reduce secondary complications and prevent irreversible damage. This is not a rare disorder or a terminal case and early detection may cure the underlying cause and symptoms disappear in time. Life does not stop with incontinence.

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