Like women, many men develop bladder control problems as they get older. But urine leakage, frequent urination, or the urgent need to urinate doesn’t have to be an unavoidable part of aging. Whether you’re male or female, bladder control problems can be treated.
What kinds of bladder control problems do men experience?
Men can have several types of bladder control problems. For example:
- Urinary incontinence (UI) – the accidental leakage of urine. In men, it can occur following a sudden, strong urge to urinate, or as a constant dribbling. Men with the dribbling problem usually need to urinate often and only pass small amounts of urine each time.
Urologist Allen D. Seftel, MD, FACS, Head of the Division of Urology at Cooper University Hospital and a world-renowned expert in men’s sexual health, notes that unlike women, men typically do not experience stress incontinence — urine leakage when coughing, sneezing or lifting. “It occasionally can happen after a man has had a radical prostatectomy for prostate cancer, but even then it’s an infrequent occurrence,” Dr. Seftel said.
- Overactive bladder – a condition in which the bladder squeezes urine out at the wrong time. Men with two or more of these symptoms may have overactive bladder:
- Urination eight or more times a day or two or more times at night.
- The sudden, strong need to urinate immediately.
- Urine leakage that follows a sudden, strong urge to urinate.
What causes bladder control problems in men?
UI and overactive bladder can be caused by prostate or nerve problems. Sometimes the cause of overactive bladder is not clear.
“Many neurological conditions, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, can cause men to lose control of their bladder, but there is help for them as well,” said Nabet G. Kasabian, MD, FACS, Attending Surgeon, Division of Urology at Cooper. Dr. Kasabian specializes in treating people with neuro-urological diseases and conditions.
Prostate problems. The prostate is a male gland about the size of a walnut that surrounds the urethra, the tube that carries urine and semen out of the body.
- An enlarged prostate, common among older men, may squeeze the urethra and result in a weak urine stream, an urgent need to urinate followed by leakage, and frequent urination, especially at night.
- Surgery or radiation to treat prostate cancer can lead to temporary or permanent bladder control problems.
Nerve problems. Damaged nerves may send signals to the bladder at the wrong time or send no signals at all, leading to bladder control problems. Spinal cord injuries or conditions such as diabetes or stroke may cause nerve problems.
What can men do about bladder control problems?
“Just changing some daily habits can help,” said Dr. Seftel. “An easy way is to limit fluid intake during certain times of the day or plan regular trips to the bathroom to avoid an accident.”
Most importantly, men should talk with a doctor about their bladder control problems. In most cases, medications can be prescribed to calm abnormal nerve signals to the bladder, or to relax the bladder, or to shrink the prostate. In other cases, surgery can help bladder control problems caused by nerve damage.
Frequent or painful urination, however, especially with blood in the urine, could be signs of a more serious condition. Men who experience these symptoms should see a doctor right away.