Nearly one out of every five men over the age of 60 is having to deal with male urinary incontinence. That's a lot of people. But as common as male incontinence is, odds are good that you've never met a single guy who fessed up to having it. It's not exactly a topic men are anxious to discuss in the locker room or over drinks after work.
"For many men," says Tomas L. Griebling, MD, "incontinence is so embarrassing they won't discuss it with anybody." Griebling is vice chair of the department of urology at the University of Kansas in Kansas City.
Men rarely see Thomas J. Weida, MD, for medical tests without prodding from a wife or girlfriend. When they do show up, Weida jokes that he “can see the drag marks on the carpet.”
It’s amusing, of course. But it can quickly turn serious when a man ignores important symptoms. Weida says he knows of men who got away with ignoring chest pain for a couple of weeks. Eventually, though, they died of heart attacks.
But why is it so embarrassing? It's because there's more to male incontinence than just the symptom. It's a condition that can affect how you see yourself. "Adult diapers" used to be a punch line or a gag gift; now it refers to the product in a drugstore isle that you're trying to choose. Urinary incontinence can make a self-assured guy feel like a humiliated, bed-wetting kid. It can make a healthy, active adult suddenly feel like an invalid. Male incontinence can have a corrosive effect on your state of mind.
But life doesn't have to be so bleak. If you're dealing with male incontinence -- with leaking and the constant worry about leaking -- here's some very good news. You can get help.
"The bottom line is that incontinence isn't something you have to live with," says Edward James Wright, MD, assistant professor of urology at Johns Hopkins Medical School in Baltimore. "It isn't a normal consequence of life. It's a problem, but a fixable problem." If your symptoms are stressing you out and taking a toll on your life, here's what you need to know:
The Impact of Male Incontinence
A lot of different things can cause male incontinence. It's often a side effect after surgery for prostate cancer or, less often, an enlarged prostate (BPH). It can be a symptom or a result of many different health conditions, for example diabetes, strokes, or MS. Sometimes it can develop for less clear reasons, such as an "overactive bladder."