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.
It may seem a peculiar American vanity that men have in-boxes full of hair
loss treatment offers and spend billions of dollars on hair loss treatments
each year. Not so. As Gersh Kuntzman illustrates in his book Hair! Mankind's
Historic Quest to End Baldness, chrome-dome anxiety has tormented us for
ages. Caesar's laurel wreaths? Classic red herring, Kuntzman says.
Baldness is biblical, too -- from the Maccabees to Samson and Delilah (a
story Kuntzman calls "practically a commercial for Propecia")...
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
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
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."
Some guys deal with male incontinence pretty well. "I see some men who
just pile on as many pads as they need, and it doesn't seem to slow them
down," says Wright. But for many others -- because of different symptoms,
experiences, and temperaments -- urinary incontinence can be debilitating.
"Some men with incontinence live in a state of constant anxiety,"
says Anthony R. Stone, MB, ChB. Stone is vice chair of urology at UC Davis
Medical School in Sacramento. "They're thinking all day long, 'Is it going
to leak through my pad?' That anxiety can have a huge, spiraling effect on
their lives." Even the most mundane activities -- a meeting, a trip to the
grocery store -- can become sources of enormous stress.