Understanding Urinary Incontinence

How urinary incontinence works

Urinary incontinence (UI) is the loss of bladder control, resulting in accidental leakage of urine from the body. This involuntary urination often happens after feeling a strong urge to urinate.

The urinary tract is the body’s drainage system and in order for it to dispose of urine, all the elements of the process need to work together, including the kidneys, bladder and brain. UI develops when the brain does not properly signal the bladder, or the muscles in the bladder and urethra which prompt urination do not squeeze strongly enough. The bladder may contract too much or not enough, or there may be damage to the muscle nerve-endings which can result in reduced function.

The issue can range from slightly embarrassing to totally debilitating and for some men, the chance of embarrassment keeps them from participating in daily life and causes emotional distress. This can cause inactivity, which can lead to obesity, itself the root cause of a number of health problems.


The types of UI affecting men

There are different types of UI that men can experience:

  • Urgency incontinence: This happens when a man urinates involuntarily after a strong desire, or urge, to urinate. Involuntary bladder contractions are a common cause of urgency incontinence and may be caused by abnormal nerve signals.
  • Stress incontinence: This occurs from movements that put pressure on the bladder and cause urine leakage, including coughing, sneezing, laughing or physical activity.
  • Functional incontinence: Physical disability, external obstacles or problems in thinking or communicating that may keep someone from reaching a place to urinate in time.
  • Overflow incontinence: If the bladder muscles have weakened, or the urethra is blocked, the bladder may not empty properly and urine can spill over, causing this type of incontinence.
  • Transient incontinence: This is incontinence that only lasts for a short time, usually caused by medication being taken or temporary medical conditions.

In rare cases, there are a mixture of reasons that give rise to UI, which can lead to the person experiencing more than one type of incontinence.


What causes urinary incontinence

There are a number of reasons that a person could be experiencing the symptoms of UI.

It is important to understand that urinary incontinence is not a disease. Rather, it can be considered a symptom of certain conditions within a man’s life that increase his chance of developing UI.

Causes can range from there being problems with urinary tract, to UI being a symptom of chronic coughing, neurological problems and physical inactivity.

Incontinence can also be brought on as a symptom of conditions like Parkinson’s disease, an enlarged prostate or diabetes.

In order to get the right diagnosis and treatment for UI, you will need to visit your doctor for an examination.


How to manage and treat incontinence

Depending on the severity of the UI, there are various ways to manage and treat incontinence.

Some men find managing how much fluid they take in an effective way of decreasing the risk and embarrassment of UI. However, be careful not to get dehydrated, since it can lead to bladder infections in some cases, and make incontinence worse.

It’s also important to monitor what you are drinking. Caffeine could irritate UI symptoms, and alcohol is diuretic, which makes you urinate more. Try and cut down on coffee, soda and alcohol. Similarly, you may find that certain foods trigger UI symptoms; note these foods and try to eat less of them in your diet.

Stress may also contribute to incontinence, which is not helpful since UI can be a stressful condition. Useful relaxation techniques like meditation or breathing exercises can help you cope with the symptoms and reduce the impact of stress on the bladder.

You can also start training your bladder. Go to the bathroom every half an hour, whether you want to empty your bladder or not. Gradually, a rhythm will develop and you can start expanding the time between bathroom visits.

If the UI is particularly bad, there are various medications that exist for incontinence. Some will help relax the muscles to prevent unwanted contractions of the bladder, while others will block nerve signals to the bladder to stop it contracting at the wrong time.

There are also surgical options for incontinence, particularly stress incontinence, which include material designed to compress the urethra to prevent leakage when sneezing or coughing, or artificial muscles which may also assist.


Links / References:

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases – Urinary Incontinence in Men. (November 2015). Retrieved from http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/urologic-disease/urinary-incontinence-in-men/Pages/facts.aspx

WebMD – Incontinence & Overactive Bladder Health Center. (September 09, 2014). Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/urinary-incontinence-oab/mens-guide/urinary-incontinence-in-men-topic-overview

WebMD – Incontinence in Men: Products, Diet, & Lifestyle. (September 23, 2015). Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/urinary-incontinence-oab/male-incontinence-9/slideshow-male-incontinence

WebMD – The Emotional Toll of Urinary Incontinence in Men. Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/urinary-incontinence-oab/male-incontinence-9/emotional-toll

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