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Incontinence in Men

Incontinence is the accidental leakage of urine caused by coughing, sneezing or other physically-straining activity. It’s not a disease but it is bothersome and can represent a symptom of a serious problem within the urinary system.

Urine is stored in the urinary bladder. A tube called the urethra leads from the bladder through the prostate and penis to the outside of the body. As the urethra leaves the prostate, it passes through a ring of muscles called the urinary sphincter.

As the bladder fills, nerve signals tell the sphincter to stay squeezed shut while the bladder stays relaxed. When you urinate, nerve signals tell the muscles in the walls of the bladder to squeeze, forcing urine out of the bladder and into the urethra. At the same time, the bladder squeezes, the urethra relaxes, allowing urine to pass through the urethra and out of the body.

Men with large prostates, men with neurological disorders, men with diabetes, and men who have had prostate-related surgery may develop incontinence due to underlying problems with the bladder, prostate, urethra and surrounding muscles.

Treatment options include medications that relax the bladder, physical therapy to help strengthen the sphincter muscle, and surgery.  Operations can include the following:

  • Implantation of an artificial urinary sphincter — a system of a cuff around the urethra, a pressure-regulating balloon in the abdomen and a pump in the scrotum that, when pumped, "deflates" the cuff and allows urine to flow.
  • Placement of a "male sling" beneath the skin between the scrotum and rectum; the sling compresses the urethra to block leakage.
  • Injecting material to add bulk to the existing urinary sphincter.

UMass urologists have received advanced urological training for treating male urinary incontinence.  For an appointment with one of our experts please call 1-508-334-8765.

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