Incontinence Facts and Myths
I suffer from bladder leakage. Is there any hope for me to return to my normal way of life?
This is usually what I hear from the men walking into my office each day. Unfortunately, it often takes them awhile to work up the courage to walk through my door. Although stress urinary incontinence (SUI) is a common problem, especially among men who had prostate cancer treatment, it remains a sensitive topic that men don’t like to talk about. However, it shouldn’t go ignored because bladder leakage can have a significant impact on a man’s emotional health, social relationships and physical activity. We would like to debunk myths around SUI and urge men to talk to a doctor about the urinary issues they face.
Myth: Urinary incontinence is inevitable with age.
Sure, aging can increase the risk for incontinence, but many elderly individuals maintain normal bladder control. Instead, SUI is a common side effect of a urological procedure, pelvic trauma or condition affecting nerve functionality. Men may experience SUI after prostate cancer treatment and surgical treatment for an enlarged prostate (BPH). Studies suggest that as many as 50 percent of men report leakage immediately following surgery for prostate cancer and up to 16 percent of men will continue to have SUI one year after surgery.
Myth: Incontinence is the same for everyone.
There are three common types of urinary incontinence. The first being SUI, which occurs when physical movement or activity puts pressure on the bladder, such as coughing, laughing, sneezing or heavy lifting. The second is urge incontinence, also known as overactive bladder, which causes an overwhelming need to urinate that may prevent reaching the toilet in time. Lastly, mixed incontinence is present when a man suffers from symptoms of both SUI and urge incontinence.
Myth: Urinary incontinence cannot be treated in older adults.
Most cases of SUI can be cured or improved. It’s a matter of men speaking with their urology specialist about their symptoms. Absorbent products are probably the most well-known option out there. Other non-surgical options include a condom catheter that is placed on the penis so urine can flow into a drainage bag and a penile clamp, which controls leakage by applying constant pressure upon the penis. More long-term treatment options include an artificial urinary sphincter (AUS) and male sling. An AUS implant is completely concealed within the body and mimics a healthy sphincter, the muscle that controls urine flow. It allows the individual to urinate when desired.3 A male sling is placed within the body and acts as a hammock, repositioning the urethra and providing support to surrounding muscles to help restore normal bladder control.4
Myth: Urinary incontinence is rarely a problem for men.
Urinary incontinence is seen as being more common among women. However, this may be because men often go undiagnosed because they are more reluctant to discuss their symptoms with family members or doctors. The reality is that more than 1 out of every 10 men experience urinary leakage at some time in their lives.5
Myth: Incontinence is embarrassing, but not serious.
Incontinence itself is not life-threatening, but it can be a very uncomfortable condition that can have a significant impact on a man’s emotional health, social relationships and physical activity. Often it can cause a man to isolate himself or limit his social life, especially exercise and leisure activities, which could lead to feelings of depression.
Myth: Absorbent products are the only option to manage urinary incontinence.
For some, absorbent products may be the best way to manage their condition. However, sometimes more than behavioral or nonsurgical treatments are needed to return to a normal life and regain confidence. We can’t emphasize this enough – men should speak with their doctor about their symptoms and ask questions about medications and procedures.