What Is Urinary Incontinence in Men? What Are the Types?

Medically Reviewed by Minesh Khatri, MD on May 28, 2023
4 min read

When you have urinary incontinence, your bladder isn’t holding or releasing urine the way it should. This means you often leak urine by accident. This happens because:

  • Your brain doesn’t signal your bladder correctly
  • You have a blockage in your urinary system
  • The muscles around your bladder aren’t working well

There are many different types of urinary incontinence. Some are more common in men than women. It happens more often in old age, but it’s usually treatable.

All the types of urinary incontinence make you leak urine, but for different reasons. You may not know which type you have until you go see a doctor for a diagnosis.

Urge incontinence. This type of urinary incontinence is sometimes also called “overactive bladder,” or OAB, although they are not exactly the same thing. Both men and women commonly get it. The main symptom is a sudden, strong “gotta go” feeling. When you have urge incontinence, your brain tells your bladder it needs to empty itself, even when there’s little urine there. Or, your bladder muscles may start trying to squeeze urine out before your bladder is full. Other symptoms include:

  • Having to hurry to the bathroom (and often not making it in time)
  • Not being able to hold your urine
  • Urinating in your sleep
  • Needing to urinate after touching or hearing water, or being in a cold place

Urge incontinence can be caused by:

You’re more likely to deal with urgency incontinence if you have problems with your prostate. You may also deal with it after having a stroke.

Stress incontinence. If you find yourself leaking urine when your bladder feels any kind of pressure, that’s called stress incontinence. You might leak when you:

It’s more common in women than men, but men can get it as they age, or after:

  • Surgery on any part of the urinary tract or genitals
  • Prostate surgery
  • Spinal cord or brain injury
  • Trauma to the urinary tract
  • Neurological conditions such as multiple sclerosis (MS)

Overflow incontinence. This type of incontinence is most common in men. It happens when your bladder doesn’t empty correctly. Your bladder fills up with too much urine and it overflows, causing leakage. Overflow incontinence symptoms include:

  • Needing to pee often, both day and night
  • Having trouble starting your urine flow
  • A weak urine stream
  • Straining (using stomach muscles) when urinating
  • Feeling like your bladder is never all the way empty, even after you go
  • Discomfort when urinating
  • Pressure in your lower abdomen

You can have these symptoms because something is blocking your urine from leaving your bladder. Reasons for this include:

The other reason you might have overflow incontinence is because your bladder has lost the ability to squeeze urine out. This might be because:

  • You’ve had bowel surgery
  • You’ve had lower back surgery
  • You have multiple sclerosis or diabetes
  • Urine from your bladder has been blocked for a long time and the bladder has stopped working (ie with BPH)

Functional incontinence. When a medical condition or physical disability makes it hard for you to get around, you may not get to the toilet in time. This is functional incontinence. You might have this kind of incontinence if you:

  • Are in a wheelchair
  • Have arthritis that makes it hard to use buttons and zippers
  • Have a mental condition that keeps you from using the bathroom when you should
  • Aren’t able to tell others when you need help going to the bathroom

Mixed incontinence. Sometimes you can have symptoms of more than one type of incontinence at the same time. Often, stress incontinence happens along with urgency incontinence.

Transient incontinence. If your incontinence is a side effect of a medication you’re taking, or a condition you have only briefly, it’s called transient incontinence. You might get this when you: