Male incontinence should not be ignored despite shame

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Men who experience urinary incontinence should never hide it from their doctor because they’re too embarrassed to talk about it or believe it’s an issue that cannot be resolved.

“Incontinence in women is fairly common, but incontinence in men is not the norm,” says Douglas Gaker, MD, a urologist with Premier Urology Center in Middletown. “If a man is leaking urine he should seek help from a urologist to determine its underlying cause. Sometimes, it can be a sign of a serious problem.”

Male incontinence, more often than not, relates to bladder failure. In younger men, the symptom can signal neurological disorders such as multiple sclerosis. In older men, it can point to bladder failure, which is caused by an enlarged prostate or prostate cancer. Male incontinence can also be a result of prostate surgery or nerve damage caused by existing health conditions such as diabetes.

Regardless of the reason for incontinence, it is an issue that can have a significant impact on a man’s emotional, social, and physical well-being. Dr. Gaker has witnessed the impact first-hand with patients who have suffered for years before making the decision to address it with a physician and seek help to resolve it.

“So many men do not talk about it,” says Dr. Gaker, who practices with Premier Health Specialists. “I worked with a nurse whose father had prostate cancer surgery eight years ago and all she noticed was a box of Depends on his dresser.”

Men may experience incontinence in a variety of ways. The different incontinence conditions are characterized as urgency (a sudden urge to urinate), stress (the need to empty the bladder caused by stress placed on the organ), functional (incontinence caused by a physical disability), overflow (when the bladder doesn’t completely empty) and transient (a result of a urinary tract infection).

“The good news is that men are living in a very exciting time when it comes to treatment of incontinence,” Dr. Gaker says. “There are many different options for treating incontinence and in most cases, it can be cured.”

Dr. Gaker performs several different procedures for incontinence. One minimally invasive procedure places an artificial sphincter inside a man’s scrotum followed by the placement of a small pump placed under the skin. Six weeks later the device can be activated and the leakage stopped. Every time a man needs to urinate he simply has to push on the pump several times. Other options, especially for men who have incontinence due to prostate surgery, include a 40-minute, outpatient surgery that inserts a sling that allows a man to regain total bladder control.

“We are talking about procedures that provide a complete transformation of a person’s life,” Dr. Gaker says. “The greatest challenge, however, is getting men to take the first step of seeking help.”

Dr. Gaker provides these important points to help men:

Don't blame age. It's true that our bodies change as we age, and the frequency at which we visit the bathroom is one of those signs. However, it may not just be age if you find yourself waking more than once a night to go to the bathroom.

Don't stay silent. Be brave and share your issue with someone close and safe. Confide in your healthcare provider to determine a good first step in correcting the issue.

Don't settle. Not all doctors are aware of the life-altering procedures available to men. Continue to seek out help even when you feel as if your problem has been pushed to the side. Dr. Gaker has consulted with men from across the country with the expertise they were not able to find in other places.

For more information on incontinence or to find a Premier Health Specialists physician near you, visit www.premierhealthspecialists.org/urology.