Urinary Incontinence Causes in Men

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For the urinary system to do its job, muscles and nerves must work together to hold urine in the bladder and then release it at the right time. Nerves carry signals from the brain to the bladder and sphincter. Any disease, condition or injury that damages nerves can lead to urination problems.

Nerve Problems

  • Nerve problems can occur at any age.
  • Men who have diabetes may develop nerve damage that affects their bladder control.
  • Stroke, Parkinson's disease and multiple sclerosis all affect the brain and nervous system, and can cause bladder problems.
  • Spinal cord injury may affect bladder emptying by interrupting the nerve signals.
  • Overactive bladder is a condition in which the bladder squeezes at the wrong time. It may be caused by nerve problems, or it may occur without any clear cause. A person with overactive bladder may have any two or all three of the following symptoms:
    • Urinary frequency—urination eight or more times a day or two or more times at night
    • Urinary urgency—the sudden, strong need to urinate immediately
    • Urge incontinence—urine leakage that follows a sudden, strong urge to urinate

Prostate Problems

The prostate is a male gland about the size and shape of a walnut. It surrounds the urethra just below the bladder, where it adds fluid to semen before ejaculation.

  • BPH: The prostate gland commonly becomes enlarged as a man ages. This condition is called benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). As the prostate enlarges, it may squeeze the urethra and affect the flow of the urinary stream. Common symptoms include:
    • A hesitant, interrupted, weak stream
    • Urgency and leaking or dribbling
    • More frequent urination, especially at night
    • Urge incontinence

    Problems with urination do not necessarily signal blockage caused by an enlarged prostate. 

  • Radical prostatectomy: The surgical removal of the entire prostate gland is one treatment for prostate cancer. In some cases, the surgery may lead to temporary or permanent erection problems and/or UI. Robotic prostatectomy usually results in less nerve damage and UI than traditional surgery. 
  • External beam radiation: This treatment for prostate cancer may result in temporary or permanent erection problems and/or UI as well as other bladder problems.

Prostate Symptom Scores

We may ask you a series of standardized questions if we think your prostate could be involved in your incontinence. Your answers may help identify the problem or determine which tests are needed.

  • Over the past month or so, how often have you had to urinate again in less than two hours?
  • Over the past month or so, from the time you went to bed at night until the time you got up in the morning, how many times did you typically get up to urinate?
  • Over the past month or so, how often have you had a sensation of not emptying your bladder completely after you finished urinating?
  • Over the past month or so, how often have you had a weak urinary stream?
  • Over the past month or so, how often have you had to push or strain to begin urinating?