Stress Urinary Incontinence is probably one of the last things on men's minds as they age. There are often many different health problems and complications that take the forefront of their care and time - obesity, heart disease, and colon cancer are common health concerns for men over 50. Plus, there’s a common misconception that light bladder leaks are a problem exclusive to older women who have given birth. While women that fit this description are often suffering from light leaks, or have at one point in their lives, men can also develop this problem.
What is SUI?
To be clear, when we’re referring to stress incontinence, we’re not talking about the sudden urge to go or the feeling of always being full (those are other urinary incontinence types). We’re talking about the accidental leakage that occurs when you run, jump, lift, or even sneeze. This causes pressure to be placed on the bladder and urinary tract and urine to leak out, anywhere from a small dribble to a stream of liquid. SUI occurs because the muscles that support and regulate the urinary tract and flow of urine are weakened or damaged somehow. There could be several reasons that men could develop light bladder leaks, but the risks and chances are far fewer than women’s due to differences in anatomy and hormonal production.
How Can Men Develop Light Bladder Leaks?
Men can develop light bladder leaks for a couple of reasons, all of them relating to pelvic floor health. They include: Prostate Cancer - Men that have been diagnosed with prostate cancer may choose to undergo a procedure called a prostatectomy to remove the cancerous cells. Experts believe that SUI develops with either damage to the urinary sphincter or the removal of physical support creates functional problems for the sphincter when the prostate gland is removed. When this occurs it is referred to as post-prostatectomy incontinence. Radiation treatment for prostate cancer may also lead to leaks in men. Diabetes - Men that have diabetes also experience neuropathy or nerve damage. Neuropathy can also manifest in pelvic floor muscles and nerves, which may be causing leaks. Obesity - Being overweight or obese adds extra pressure to the urinary tract. High Impact Activities - Athletes that have years of training, especially in high-impact activities like running, hiking, or gymnastics can impact pelvic floor health. Age - With age comes the loss of muscle mass and ability throughout our bodies, including the pelvic floor. Urinary incontinence becomes more frequent as we age because of this. Smoking - Smokers tend to cough more than those who do not. Not only does smoking put repeated impact on the pelvic floor, but it can also cause more frequent leaks.
Solutions for Men
While developing SUI is less likely to occur in males, it does happen, and you’re not alone. Talking to your doctor or a urologist will allow you to make the right choices for your body. Some solutions for men’s stress urinary incontinence include: Pads & Undergarments - Absorbent pads and garments are designed to absorb and wear comfortably and discreetly for hours at a time. Usually available at retailers and drug stores. Kegels - This is an exercise meant to work the pelvic floor muscles to strengthen them. Kegels are thought of as “feminine” or meant for women, and we’ll be honest, we understand why. There’s a whole market dedicated to tools, apps, and even crystal eggs meant to assist women in these exercises. But men can (and should!) do them as well. Electrical Stimulation - Similarly to Kegels, electrical stimulation is applied to the rectum to stimulate the pelvic floor muscles and regain their strength.
More Common in Women: Here’s Why
So, yes, men can develop light bladder leaks, but women are far more likely to have symptoms appear in their lifetime. According to the Urology Care Foundation, about 1 in 3 women suffer from SUI at some point in their lives. About one-third (1 out of 3) of women age 60 find that they sometimes leak urine, and about half (1 out of 2) of women age 65 and above find that they sometimes leak urine. With statistics like this, it makes you wonder why females are more susceptible to light bladder leaks. The answer is not so straightforward; experts believe that women usually have a combination of things that can lead to leaks. Some of them are the same as what can cause SUI in men. Things like loss of muscle mass with age, obesity, choosing to smoke, and developing diabetes are risk factors that transcend gender and can cause leaks in both women and men. Women also go through several physical changes in their lives that increase their chance of developing SUI at a larger rate than men. Urethra Size - Women’s urethras are actually smaller than males, which means that more damage is likely to be caused. Childbirth - Giving birth vaginally is also a leading cause of women developing SUI. The combination of changing hormones to prepare for birth to the havoc that delivery does to the pelvic floor means moms are more likely to develop leaks. In one study, women who had a vaginal birth are more likely to develop light bladder leaks that women that had a C-section. Menopause - Postchildbearing years mean a drop in estrogen production in women, which can weaken the urethral lining.
Solutions for Women
Like men, women have plenty of options to deal with their light bladder leaks at their disposal. Pads, liners, and absorbent undergarments are made and designed for women to hide their leaks for hours at a time. Kegels are also a very common recommendation for women experiencing leaks. In addition, there are a few solutions that are exclusive to women to deal with their stress urinary incontinence. Surgery - vaginal mesh surgery is an option to support the bladder and urethra through incisions made. The FDA has had complications with the manufacturers of these products, however, and has halted production until safety concerns are addressed. Estrogen Medication - A topical cream may be prescribed to women to help increase the production of estrogen during menopause.
Although men and women can both develop SUI, because it is so common in women, the women’s health company Rinovum has worked with experts to develop a device to support the bladder from the inside out. Made to fit comfortably inside the female anatomy for 12 hours a day, Revive™ is reusable, easy, and effective. Available over-the-counter at retailers nationwide!