male incontinence

All About Male Incontinence: Causes and Treatment

Did you know, there are five types of incontinence that can affect both men and women? Each type is defined by its own set of distinct symptoms. Oftentimes, men don’t even realize the symptoms they are experiencing are related to male incontinence. This is partially due to the myths surrounding this common condition. Incontinence is usually seen as a health problem only women or the elderly are susceptible to. As you will see, men — even young men — are able to develop any of these five types of incontinence as well. 

Male incontinence can have a variety of underlying causes, making it somewhat difficult to identify and diagnose properly. Something as minor as drinking too much water, or as serious as prostate cancer, can trigger incontinence symptoms in men. Regardless of what is causing your symptoms, it’s important to see a urologist if any signs of incontinence are present. Depending on the type of incontinence you are dealing with, symptoms may include urinary leakage, a weak urine stream, feeling as if your bladder is never fully empty, or having to wake up more than twice to go to the bathroom.

Continue reading for a list of common causes and how to get help for male incontinence.

Causes of Male Incontinence

Cause #1: Underlying Issues in the Urinary Tract

If you are experiencing incontinence symptoms out of the blue and have never had issues in the past, this could indicate an underlying condition happening inside of the urinary tract

These underlying causes could be anything from a simple urinary tract infection (UTI) to urinary stones blocking the passage of urine inside the urethra. Surprisingly, constipation can also be the culprit behind male incontinence. This can cause your bladder to overreact if pressure from the rectum becomes too severe. The only way to determine your underlying cause of incontinence is to visit a urologist. 

Cause #2: Prostate Issues

Additionally, prostate issues such as an enlarged prostate, also known as benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH), can lead to male incontinence. 

An enlarged prostate can block the urethra and make urination difficult. If you have any symptoms of an enlarged prostate, make an appointment with a urologist to perform prostate-specific antigen testing. PSA testing will give your provider an idea of what could be wrong with your prostate that’s causing the incontinence. 

Urinary incontinence can also be a symptom of prostate cancer, or an unfortunate side effect of prostate cancer treatment. If you have had radiation or surgery in the past, you may experience some incontinence symptoms as a result. This is because radiation therapy (and most forms of urinary surgery) can affect the way the bladder holds urine and how it exits the body.

Cause #3: Poor Diet

An unhealthy diet consisting of large amounts of refined sugar, such as corn syrup and artificial sweeteners, can negatively affect your urinary system and result in male incontinence. 

Making simple changes to your diet can help improve your urological health overall. For example, consider switching sugary drinks to only water whenever you feel thirsty. In general, be sure to eliminate refined sugars from your diet as much as possible to help your incontinence symptoms from worsening.

Cause #4: Weak Urinary Muscles

Lastly, your incontinence may be caused by weakened muscles in your bladder. 

This is typically not a cause for concern as it’s normal for the muscles that control the start and stop of urine flow to weaken over time. Chronic strain from constipation is a common cause of weakened urinary muscles. Simple at-home exercises and physical therapy are usually all that is needed to help strengthen the muscles. 

How to Treat Male Incontinence

Diet and Exercise

If you are wondering how to treat male incontinence, staying healthy overall is one of the best ways to keep incontinence symptoms in check. 

First, eat foods that are rich in fiber to prevent constipation. For protein, eat less in general and only have lean meat and fish. These proteins are easier on your bladder and don’t cause excess stress on your kidneys. Male patients with incontinence also benefit from eating foods that are high in magnesium, such as leafy greens, legumes, and nuts. 

Maintaining a regular exercise routine, along with daily Kegel exercises, can help all of your organs function correctly. 

Bladder and Muscle Training

Sometimes, due to an illness or different medications or surgeries, the bladder needs to be re-trained to understand when it’s time to urinate. 

One method of bladder training is to wait an extra 10 or 15 minutes before having to urinate and then gradually increasing the time. This will train your bladder to be less reactive and reduce the feeling of needing to urinate urgently. 

Physical Therapy

If weak pelvic floor muscles are causing your incontinence, and Kegel exercises aren’t providing much progress, then physical therapy can help. 

Physical therapy will focus on pelvic exercises. Your physical therapist or doctor may also suggest that you do Kegel exercises at home. A simple Kegel exercise for men involves stopping the flow of urine once you’ve started. This helps you identify and strengthen the specific muscles your body uses when urinating. Simply tighten and hold these muscles for several seconds and release. Repeat this exercise several times per day to gradually build strength and return to normal function. 

Medication and Surgery

There are a few medications out there that can help you control your stress or urge incontinence. 

Antispasmodic drugs can help calm the nerves associated with the bladder, while alpha-blocker medications may help with an overactive bladder. Surgeries may involve having a device inserted around the urethra to help control urination, or inserting material that will help build up the wall of the urethra. Discuss your options with your urologist to see if a certain medication or surgical procedure would correct your male incontinence. 

Finding Help for Male Incontinence Starts with You

Learning how to treat male incontinence starts by taking care of yourself as you age. Men in different stages of life are prone to certain health issues that can be prevented if you are proactive now. Know how to take charge of your own health with our Men’s Guide to Healthy Aging

Download your free copy of the guide in the button below. 

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This blog post was originally published in 2015 and was refreshed in 2020.