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Battling Bladder Control: Male and Female Incontinence

Posted June 26, 2018 by Lawrence L Geller, MD Summa Health Medical Group - Urology

Incontinence Blog

Normally associated more with females than males, urinary incontinence affects at least 25 million Americans each year. And while 75 percent are female, the issue can affect any person, at any age.

Interesting fact: Incontinence is not a disease, it is always a symptom or cause of something else. There are at least 4 different types of incontinence and a host of causes and issues that can cause bladder leakage.

First, let’s explore the different types:

  1. Stress incontinence is the most common type of bladder control issue in younger and middle-aged women. It occurs when urine leaks due to exercise, coughing, sneezing or anything else that can put pressure on the bladder.
  2. Urge incontinence is a sudden, intense urge to urinate, followed by an involuntary loss of urine. It can feel like you need to urinate often, with little to no urine released or inability to control when it is released. This is usually caused by some sort of minor infection, like a urinary tract or kidney infection. However, in some cases, this can be an indication of something much more sever, like diabetes, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s or another type of neurological disorder.
  3. Overflow incontinence happens when small amounts of urine leak from a bladder that isn’t emptying completely. In males, this can be an indication of an enlarged prostate. It can also indicate diabetes or result from spinal cord injuries in both men and women.
  4. Functional incontinence happens when an underlying physical or mental issue keeps you from reaching the bathroom in time. This type of incontinence isn’t necessarily connected to the bladder. It can be a result of physical conditions like surgery, a debilitating injury or arthritis and not being able to physically make it to the bathroom in time.

There are also several health and lifestyle issues that can contribute to bladder control issues, including:

  • Pregnancy and childbirth: during pregnancy the baby can position itself on top of the bladder or hormonal changes can lead to stress incontinence. A vaginal delivery can sometimes cause the muscles to weaken and the nerves and tissue around the bladder can be damaged.
  • Urinary tract infection: this infection, easily treatable with antibiotics, can irritate your bladder and cause strong sensations of having to urinate.
  • Enlarged prostate or prostate cancer: incontinence in older men usually stems from an enlargement of the prostate gland. This can cause stress or urge incontinence if left untreated. In some instances, incontinence can also be a side effect of prostate cancer treatments.
  • Neurological disease: certain issues can arise when the nerves that tell the bladder when to empty are damaged or the signal is blocked from the brain. This can occur in multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease patients. It can also occur with diabetes and after a stroke.
  • Menopause: during this time, women produce less estrogen. This hormone is crucial in keeping the lining of the bladder and urethra in shape. Once these tissues start to deteriorate, incontinence can be a side effect of the loss of the lining. 
  • Age: just like our other muscles, age can affect the strength of the bladder and its capacity to hold urine.
  • Obesity: when you add pounds to your body, either due to inactivity or poor diet, your bladder feels more pressure. That can trigger incontinence by making it feel like you have to urinate more often.

There are a variety of treatments for incontinence issues. And the first step should be consulting with your primary care physician to determine what those underlying causes may be.

At Summa Health, we understand that it can be hard to talk about urologic conditions. If you or a loved one is suffering, our urologists will work with your primary care physician to make sure all of your health needs are being fully discussed and treated. It can be difficult to talk about urologic conditions but you can be confident that you’re being seen by compassionate, fellowship-trained urologists who can treat a range of issues including infertility, cancer and kidney disease.

Our physicians provide urology services that utilize innovative therapies, treatments, minimally invasive techniques and robotic surgery.

For more information on incontinence, contact the Summa Health Urology Team at 330.374.1255 or visit


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