Incontinence — the inability to make it to a bathroom before urine begins to leak — affects men and women differently,” said Brian Cohen, MD, MPH, FACS, a urologist with Mission Urology. “Both men and women are equally affected by overactive bladder symptoms. These symptoms include frequent urination, urgency of urination and urge incontinence.”
Women frequently experience stress incontinence, which is the loss of urine when you cough, laugh, sneeze, strain or exercise, said Dr. Cohen. “The main risk factors are the number of pregnancies, the number of vaginal deliveries and having had a hysterectomy,” he said. “Childbirth-related incontinence affects between 4-35 percent of women.”
Stress incontinence can be improved with pelvic floor muscle strengthening exercises, and surgery when more conservative measures are not successful.
In older men, urinary incontinence is often related to an enlarged prostate. “In men, it can be challenging to determine if these symptoms are partially caused by the prostate, and it may require some additional testing,” said Dr. Cohen. “Men can also experience stress incontinence, but this typically only happens after prostate surgery if the sphincter muscle is damaged.”
While it is often associated with aging, urinary incontinence doesn’t have to be an inevitable consequence of getting older. “A healthy and active lifestyle can help prevent incontinence,” said Dr. Cohen. “Obesity has been associated with overactive bladder symptoms and can improve with weight loss.”
It is not uncommon for patients to suffer with incontinence needlessly for years before seeking help. “People should seek medical care for incontinence when the condition begins to affect their quality of life and prevents them from being able to do the activities they want to do,” said Dr. Cohen.
“It is a very common condition, and you are not alone in suffering with this issue,” said Dr. Cohen. “Urologists are trained to help with incontinence and understand the negative and embarrassing impact it can have.”
Brian Cohen, MD, MPH, FACS, is a urologist with Mission Urology.