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Medical Conditions That Cause Incontinence, Men Versus Women

By Complete Care Specialist March 22, 2018

cathetersWhat exactly is incontinence? Urinary incontinence is simply the loss of bladder control. This condition is relatively common, and it ranges in severity from occasional leaking to an uncontrollable release.

When incontinence happens, urinary catheters are often involved. There are several different types of catheters, including intermittent catheters, indwelling catheters and external catheters. Incontinence can happen for a variety of reasons some of which are gender specific. So let's talk about the differences between genders.

There are a few causes of persistent urinary incontinence that are exclusive to men. These include: 

  • Enlarged Prostate: An enlarged prostate is more common in older men but can occur in men of all ages. It is normal for the prostate to become larger as a man ages and it does not always result in incontinence. Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), which is an enlarged prostate gland is one reason your prostate could be enlarged. BPH causes the prostate to compress the urethra, the bladder then compensates for a narrowed urethra. Both BPH and removing the prostate, to treat BPH, can result in incontinence. Prostatitis is an inflammation of the prostate due to an infection and could be another reason for an enlarged prostate. Finally, Prostate cancer could be a reason your prostate is enlarged. 
  • Prostate Cancer: Stress, urge and overflow incontinence can all be associated with prostate cancer. Often times prostate cancer can result in an enlarged prostate, blockage of the urethra, increased frequency of urination, difficulty starting and stopping urination, and urinary retention. Unfortunately, incontinence can also be a side effect of prostate cancer treatments, mainly prostate removal and radiation. For example, prostate removal can damage or weaken the pelvic floor muscles and nerves around the bladder resulting in leakage.

When it comes to women, there are several other reasons that one may suffer from urinary incontinence. This is due to their exclusivity with certain reproductive processes. 

  • Pregnancy: Changes in hormones and increase weight gain from the fetus can lead to incontinence for pregnant women. The pressure the fetus puts on the bladder can also lead to temporary urinary incontinence. 
  • Childbirth: There are several aspects of childbirth that can cause incontinence. Vaginal delivery weakens and stretches the muscles needed for bladder control. It can also damage bladder nerves and supportive tissues. A C-section can also result in incontinence but is less likely to occur when compared to vaginal birthing. 
  • Menopause: Menopause also deals with the changing hormones in a woman's body. After menopause, women produce less estrogen. Estrogen helps keep the lining of the bladder and urethra healthy, so deterioration of these tissues can lead to incontinence.
  • Hysterectomy: For women, the bladder and uterus are supported by many of the same muscles. Any type of surgery that involves the reproductive system, especially removing the uterus, can damage the pelvic floor muscles.
  • Pelvic Organ Prolapse: This occurs when a pelvic organ drops from its normal position and pushes against the vagina. Childbirth or surgery can cause this to occur due to the weakening or stretching of the muscles that hold your organs in place. A hysterectomy is one surgery that can cause pelvic organ prolapse, uniquely because the uterus is removed and can sometimes leave your other organs with less support.

There are some conditions leading to incontinence that are common for both men and women, including but not limited to changes in the body as one ages, obesity, obstructions in the urinary tract, and neurological disorders. Urinary incontinence can happen to anyone, whether it is temporary or persistent, so don’t be afraid to talk about it!

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