What are the causes of male incontinence?

Swollen prostate gland or prostate surgery

The most common type of bladder weakness experienced by men is a continuous dripping. This is often caused by a swollen prostate, impeding the passage of urine during urination. This results in the bladder not being completely emptied. A swollen prostate can also lead to Urge Urinary Incontinence (UUI), or ‘the sudden need to go’.

Prostate surgery can cause the muscles to become temporarily weakened, leading to Stress Urinary Incontinence – involuntary leaks when you laugh, cough or undertake certain physical activities. In some cases nerves and muscles are damaged during surgery which can cause a more permanent problem.

Loss of mobility

Sometimes the simple fact that someone is not able to get around due to physical injury or age makes it difficult to react in time to signals from the bladder or bowel.

Mental illness

If you are looking after someone with a mental illness, it may be that he simply cannot recognise the need to urinate or defecate or, due to his illness, fails to respond to those signals.

A diagnosed medical condition

Certain medical conditions, particularly those affecting the brain or nervous system – such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, dementia, multiple sclerosis and brain damage – can cause incontinence. This is due to the nerve passageways from the brain becoming damaged. The result can be either an overactive bladder (the need to go often and frequently) or an under-active bladder (ineffective emptying leading to leakage). It can also lead to faecal incontinence. Diabetes or a stroke can also bring on incontinence.

Prescribed medications

Male urinary incontinence can be a side-affect of certain medication. If your loved one recently started, or changed, their medication and this has coincided with their incontinence, it may be worth arranging a review with his doctor. Sometimes medications can be changed, dosages reduced, or even stopped.

Regularly urinary infections

Urinary infections can lead to bladder hypersensitivity. The symptoms include urgency, frequency of emptying by day and night (or in small amounts), and not being able to reach the toilet in time.

Regular constipation

Constipation is one of the most common causes of faecal incontinence. Chronic constipation could lead to an impacted hard stool in the rectum becoming too large to pass. As a result, the rectum muscles and intestines stretch, and eventually weaken. Watery stools could also pass around the hard stool and leak out causing faecal incontinence.

Weakened pelvic floor muscles

The bladder and outlet passage are supported and held in place by a hammock of muscles (the pelvic floor muscles) that keep the bladder closed. Muscles weaken naturally with age, and when these muscles lose their strength and flexibility even commonplace activities, such as coughing, can cause leakage.

Being overweight

If the person you care for is overweight, this can put additional pressure on the abdominal and pelvic muscles, leading to urine leaks.

Being a smoker

A smoker’s cough can be an indirect cause of leakage, mainly because of the frequency and abnormal violence involved in each cough. Another factor for smokers is the increased risk of contracting circulatory diseases and the subsequent prescription of diuretic medicines which also increase the likelihood of leakage.

Child incontinence

The above causes may not apply if you are caring for a child so you may want to visit the children’s section of the site for specific causes of incontinence in children.

If you’re unsure of the cause of your loved one’s incontinence, read about causes or go to types of incontinence for more help.