What Is Male Incontinence?

Incontinence, or urine leakage, is a common issue, affecting up to 11 percent of men.* Although not life-threatening, incontinence can cause stress, embarrassment, loss of intimacy, and social isolation. 

While male incontinence can be a sign of aging, it is often a symptom of an underlying health condition, such as an enlarged prostate. If you experience urine leakage, it’s important to see a doctor.

*NIH.gov

Types of Male Incontinence & Symptoms

Most men who experience a loss of urine control have one of three incontinence types:

  • Stress incontinence — Your body’s urinary sphincter muscles open and close to control your urine flow as it leaves the bladder. When these muscles aren’t working correctly, urine leakage will occur with activities that put stress on the bladder. You may experience stress incontinence when you sneeze, cough, or laugh.
  • Urge incontinence (overactive bladder) — You may experience a feeling of pressure and uncontrollable need to urinate. Sometimes men with urge incontinence may not be able to get to a bathroom in time. Urge incontinence may be a sign of a more serious underlying medical condition that needs to be thoroughly evaluated.
  • Overflow incontinence — Men who cannot fully empty their bladders when urinating may experience continuous urine leakage. The leaking occurs when the urine buildup in the bladder “spills out” unexpectedly. If you have overflow incontinence, you may not even sense that your bladder is full. Overflow incontinence may be a symptom of a more serious medical problem and should be evaluated.

Why Choose University of Utah Health for Male Incontinence Treatment?

U of U Health is the Mountain West’s foremost academic medical center. When you come to us for incontinence treatment, you can expect:

  • Clinical expertise: Our fellowship-trained urologists are experts in the full range of urinary tract conditions. We diagnose and treat hundreds of men with mild to severe incontinence each year and offer the most advanced medical devices for urinary leakage.
  • Interdisciplinary collaboration: Our urology team works closely with other U of U Health specialists to develop a treatment plan that’s right for you. When necessary, your urologist works alongside plastic and colorectal surgeons and oncologists to bring you the right care.
  • Advances in surgical techniques: Our clinicians participate in ongoing research and conduct active clinical trials. Their involvement brings leading-edge treatments for urinary incontinence to our patients.

What Causes Incontinence in Men?

Urine leakage in men can have many causes. If you are experiencing urinary incontinence, it’s important to see a doctor for a complete evaluation. Common reasons for male incontinence include:

  • bladder sensitivity to products like alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, or spicy food;
  • cancer of the bladder, prostate, or urinary tract;
  • enlarged prostate;
  • infection;
  • neurological conditions, such as spinal cord injury, stroke, multiple sclerosis, or Parkinson’s disease;
  • side effects after prostate surgery;
  • side effects from certain medications;
  • trauma to the urethra (the tube that carries urine out of the body); or
  • weak muscles in the bladder (the organ that holds urine).

How Is Male Incontinence Diagnosed?

Effective incontinence treatment starts with pinpointing the cause of urine leakage. In some cases, treating the underlying cause relieves symptoms of urinary incontinence.

At U of U Health, our team of urologists has years of experience diagnosing incontinence in men. Your appointment includes a thorough medical history and physical exam.

Your doctors may order additional tests in our urology clinic, including:

  • Cystoscopy — Your doctor uses a cystoscope, a thin tube with a camera at the end, for a more detailed look inside your urethra and bladder.
  • Uroflowmetry – A simple test measures the rate of urine flow out of the bladder. This test also measures the amount of leftover urine in the bladder after voiding.
  • Urodynamic studies — These tests measure pressure within the bladder as urine fills and flows out of the bladder into the urethra.

Male Incontinence Treatments

There is no one-size-fits-all treatment for urinary incontinence in men. Depending on the type, cause, and severity of urine leakage, treatment options vary from at-home methods for managing symptoms to surgery.

Managing Stress Incontinence

Men with mild stress incontinence can often manage the symptoms without treatment. The goal of management is to minimize leakage and provide temporary relief. If you have stress incontinence your doctor may recommend:

  • products that absorb urine, including pads or diapers, especially for incontinence at night.
  • behavioral changes, such as purposeful dehydration and frequent urination to keep the bladder empty.
  • physical therapy to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles.
  • dietary changes to avoid foods and other products that cause bladder stimulation, like caffeine, alcohol, spicy peppers, or acidic fruits.
  • male incontinence devices such as clamps that keep your urethra closed to prevent leakage and condom catheters worn over your penis to catch leaking urine.
  • bulking products like collagen are injected into your urethra to help the tissues block involuntary urine flow.

Urge Incontinence Treatment

Urge incontinence is often a symptom of another condition, such as an enlarged prostate. Identifying and treating the underlying cause is important to finding the right treatment. In addition, some men get relief from therapies such as:

  • medications to improve bladder muscle control or
  • bladder retraining therapy techniques to increase how long you can wait before having to urinate.

Overflow Incontinence Treatment

Overflow incontinence is usually a sign of another medical condition like an obstruction in the prostate or scarring in the urethra (urethral stricture). We typically treat the underlying condition to resolve the issue.

Surgical Treatments for Male Urinary Incontinence

Depending on the type of incontinence, surgery may permanently stop urinary leakage. You are usually asleep under general anesthesia for these procedures and go home the same day.
Our urologists offer the latest surgical procedures for urinary incontinence, including:

  • Neuromodulation — The surgeon will implant a device that sends electrical stimulation to the nerves that control urine flow. This technique may improve bladder function for severe urge incontinence.
  • Sling surgery — To improve symptoms caused by stress incontinence, your surgeon will place a supportive mesh sling underneath the urethra by making a small incision (cut) underneath your scrotum. Symptoms usually improve right after surgery.
  • Artificial urinary sphincter (AUS) This is a surgical option for severe stress incontinence. The artificial sphincter is an implanted inflatable rubber device with a pump that controls the flow of urine.

Make an Appointment with an Incontinence Specialist

You do not need a referral from your primary care provider (PCP) to make an appointment with one of our urologists. Call 801-213-2700 or use our online appointment form.

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