Although incontinence affects almost one-quarter of men across all age groups, it is still a problem that most men are reluctant to discuss with their doctor or significant other. Men in particular face certain stigmas when it comes to urinary incontinence and are more likely than women to be uninformed about urinary health issues and how to manage their symptoms. If you are one of the millions of men living with incontinence, the following are simple steps that you can take to help manage your symptoms.
Discuss Your Medications With Your Doctor:
Certain medications, such as antihistamines, certain antidepressants, and diuretics, can exacerbate incontinence symptoms and contribute to urinary leakage. There are also medications that can target and alleviate the underlying cause of incontinence. For example, there are drugs available to shrink an enlarged prostate or calm the nerves of an overactive bladder.
Protect the Skin:
The constant moisture from chronic leakage and dribbling can lead to skin rashes and fungal infections. Men with incontinence should take extra care to keep the perineal area around the scrotum clean and dry. Barrier creams are also an effective way to keep the skin from becoming irritated. Absorbent underwear and pads should be changed every few hours to reduce the risk of infection.
Implement a Bladder Training Regimen:
Like other muscles in the body, the bladder and its supporting muscles become stronger with exercise. Take bathroom breaks at set intervals whether you feel the need to go or not. Depending on the severity and frequency of your incontinence episodes, you can schedule the breaks as often as every one to two hours. Once you are able to manage that time without any episodes, gradually start increasing the time between breaks. It is important to keep in mind that bladder training may take several months before you see the full benefits.
Most women are familiar with pelvic floor exercises known as Kegels; however, an Italian study shows that they can also reduce incontinence symptoms in men. To perform a Kegel, you tense and squeeze the muscles used for urination for three seconds and then relax them for three seconds. Start slowly with 10 repetitions two to three times a day and gradually work your way up to about 80 repetitions a day.
Monitor Fluid Intake:
It is important to stay adequately hydrated and to drink when thirsty; however, men with incontinence should try to stagger fluids throughout the day and avoid drinking after about 6 p.m. to reduce the likelihood of incontinence episodes during the night. You should also avoid alcohol and caffeine that can irritate the bladder and increase the urge to urinate.
If these conservative measures do not help, do not be embarrassed to talk to your doctor. There are surgical treatments, implantable artificial sphincters, slings, and nerve stimulators that can help alleviate incontinence symptoms.