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Myths About Male Incontinence

Incontinence is a common challenge for over 33 million Americans. It is true that women are more likely to develop incontinence due to factors like childbirth. However, incontinence also affects men. Despite how common UI is among both men and women, there are still damaging myths that circulate about male incontinence.

These myths do more harm than good, so we’re passionate about putting these myths to rest. This article breaks down and debunks common myths associated with male incontinence, providing important facts in their place.


Basics of Incontinence

Urinary incontinence (UI) is characterized by the unintentional loss of urine. UI occurs when the bladder muscles or pelvic floor muscles have weakened due to general use, or when bladder signals are unable to communicate effectively with the brain.

There are various types of incontinence that have different causes and symptoms. For instance, some forms of incontinence such as urge incontinence involve a sudden and intense urge to urinate, even if you’ve just emptied your bladder. Another form of UI known as stress incontinence is when you leak during movements that put stress on your bladder muscles.


Incontinence in Men

Incontinence looks different for everyone, but there are more distinct differences between female incontinence and male incontinence. Let’s take a look at some common causes of male incontinence.


Potential Causes

  • BHP: Also known as benign prostatic hyperplasia, BHP is a common condition in older men characterized by the growth of the prostate gland. This growth often results in incontinence.
  • Prostate cancer: Prostate cancer can be a result in both stress incontinence and urge incontinence, especially if the cancer is left untreated. These forms of incontinence can also be a result of prostate cancer treatments.
  • Obstruction: An obstruction is a tumor or urinary stone stuck in the urinary tract that blocks urine passage and can result in leaks and overflow incontinence.
  • Neurological Disorders: Our bladders and brains communicate with each other to help our renal systems work correctly and help our bladder muscles know when to contract. There are certain disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, brain tumor, injury to the spine, and a brain tumor that can affect this communication and thus cause incontinence.
  • Muscle Loss: Our bladder muscles can weaken over time and be unable to hold as much urine. This can result in incontinence and leaks.

Most Common Types of Male Incontinence

Below are the most common forms of incontinence in men:

Stress incontinence: This form of UI occurs during movements that put pressure on the bladder muscles and cause them to leak urine.

  • Urge incontinence: This form of UI is characterized by frequent and intense urges to urinate, even if you’ve just emptied it.
  • Overflow incontinence: Overflow UI is the inability to completely empty your bladder at the same time. You may have an intense urge to urinate but be unable to be complete.
  • Functional Incontinence: This form of incontinence is characterized by the need to go but the inability to get to the bathroom in time. 

Myths

Myths about male incontinence can be damaging and lead people to misunderstand UI. Below are common myths associated with male incontinence and why they’re just not true.


Incontinence is Inevitable with Age

While incontinence is more common in older adults, it is not a normal or inevitable part of aging. Incontinence can affect anyone during any time of life, so assuming that it’s a normal part of aging is incorrect. In addition to this, many older adults have promoted bladder control through diet and exercise and are able to control their urine output completely.

Most causes of UI are not dependent on age and are related to other factors. For instance, surgeries or cancer treatments can result in UI for men of any age.


Incontinence Can’t be Treated

Many believe that incontinence cannot be treated and that if you live with it, it’s a permanent condition. However, this is not true. There is an abundance of resources for treating urinary incontinence in men. Here are some of the most common ways to treat urinary incontinence.

  • Exercise and Diet: Obesity and weight are closely related to incontinence, but by exercising you can lose weight and by eating nutritious foods you can improve your bladder control. You can also follow the bladder diet and avoid foods that irritate the bladder such as citrus, caffeine, dairy, and gluten.
  • Pelvic Floor Exercises, also known as Kegels, are a great way to tighten the bladder muscles and help you regain control of your bladder!
  • Empty your bladder twice. This strategy is known as double voiding and is a great way to help with urge incontinence and obstructive incontinence.

In addition to these forms of treatment, you can talk to your doctor about medications, therapies, devices, and even surgeries that can treat urinary incontinence and help you regain control of your bladder!


Men Don’t Have Incontinence

Many assume that only women live with UI, but this is a myth. While urinary incontinence is more common in women due to increased risk factors, men are still affected by UI.

Incontinence is especially common in men who have undergone prostate surgeries, have BHP, or have had prostate cancer treatments.


It’s Impossible to Manage Incontinence

Managing incontinence is actually very possible. From protective underwear to pelvic floor exercises to avoiding foods that can irritate the bladder, there are many options for managing UI.


Protective Underwear

One of the most popular ways to manage incontinence is through the use of protective underwear. While there can be a damaging stigma around protective underwear, they can prevent leaks, keep you fresh and dry, and help you feel confident throughout the day.

If you tend to void larger amounts of urine at a time, consider premium bladder protection underwear that offers maximum protection. These can hold up to four cups of liquid without leaking! During the night, you can use overnight bladder protection underwear to increase absorbency and hold six cups of liquid, so you stay rested throughout the night.

For smaller voids of urine, consider a booster or bladder protection guard. You can place these overtop regular underwear for added protection if you tend to leak throughout the day.


Bladder Control Exercises

Another popular way to manage UI is by performing kegel exercises. These exercises involve tightening the pelvic floor muscles to strengthen bladder control and be able to stop the flow of urine. To perform Kegels, imagine that you are stopping the flow of urine by tightening your pelvic floor muscles. Repeat this tightening movement for a few minutes each day. You can also hold the movement for a few seconds, release, and repeat for an added challenge.


Incontinence is the Same for All Men

Incontinence is not only different in all men, but it’s different for everyone regardless of gender. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to types of UI, causes, or treatments. Everyone is different, so it’s important to understand that your incontinence may look different from someone else’s.

In addition to this, there are various types of incontinence that can each be caused by a variety of factors. From stress, incontinence to urge incontinence and functional incontinence, no form or variation is exactly the same.


Incontinence Occurs Because Your Bladder is too Small

Incontinence has nothing to do with bladder size as most bladders can hold around two cups of urine. Instead, incontinence is caused by underlying health conditions, surgeries, miscommunication between the nerves and the bladder, or weakened bladder muscles.


Stop Leaks by Drinking Less

Not only does limiting liquid intake not prevent leaks, but it can lead to serious health problems.

Dangers of Dehydration

Dehydration occurs when our fluid output is larger than our fluid input. If dehydration is prolonged and untreated, it can progress to serious health conditions and even be fatal. Our bodies need water to carry out its normal functions.

Dehydration is especially dangerous for older adults with UI as our fluid reserves get smaller with age. If left unaddressed, dehydration can result in seizures, shock from blood volume that’s too low, kidney failure and urinary infections, and heat injury as our body will be unable to use sweat to cool down.


What to Actually Stop Drinking

Instead of limiting water consumption to avoid leaking, try limiting caffeinated drinks, alcohol, carbonated beverages, and sweet drinks as these can irritate the bladder and lead to leaks.


Summary 

Urinary incontinence is a common challenge many men live with, and the myths circulating male UI can not only be damaging but allow for misinformation to spread. By recognizing myths about male incontinence and learning the truths about UI, you will be better prepared to manage and treat incontinence.

If you live with incontinence, there are many resources to help from skincare to what incontinence products are best for you. Learn more about these resources here.

 

Sources:

Urinary Incontinence | NAFC

Bladder Health | Harvard Health

Urinary Incontinence | Mayo Clinic

Urinary Incontinence Diagnosis | Mayo Clinic

How Long Should You Hold Your Urine | Piedmont.org

Symptoms of Dehydration | Mayo Clinic