Urinary Incontinence in Men. Ann Intern Med. 2000;132:547. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-132-7-200004040-00040
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Published: Ann Intern Med. 2000;132(7):547.
Urinary incontinence, the involuntary loss of urine, is an important health concern. Incontinence affects many adults, but much more is known about incontinence in women than in men.
The authors wanted to find out how often urinary incontinence happens in men.
The researchers studied 840 men (average age about 60 years) who visited primary care clinics at the Louisville Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
Male patients in the waiting rooms of the clinics who agreed to participate completed a private, written survey about bladder function. The survey asked about amount and frequency of urinary incontinence and its impact on quality of life. It also asked about general health information, previous surgery involving the urinary system, and medications that might affect urination. Finally, it asked whether these men had discussed this problem with their health care providers. The researchers defined incontinence as any episode of involuntary urine loss in the past 12 months.
The researchers approached 991 men and 840 agreed to participate. Almost one third of the men reported incontinence, which occurred at least once a week in about 14% of men. About 3% of men reported loss of enough urine to wet outer clothing or the floor. Incontinence occurred most often in men who were 61 to 70 years old. Factors related to incontinence were prior prostate or bladder surgery and the use of medications to prevent bladder spasm. The presence of prostate cancer, by itself, and the use of diuretics “water pills” or prostate-acting medicines were not related to incontinence. Incontinence was associated with poorer quality of emotional health and social relationships, less physical activity, and interference with travel. Within the previous year, only 32% of the men with incontinence had discussed the problem with a medical provider. However, three quarters of these men expressed an interest in treatment for the problem.
This study may have overestimated the frequency of urinary incontinence in men because men with incontinence may be especially likely to participate in a study about bladder function. All of these men were visiting doctors, and the frequency of incontinence may be less among men who do not visit doctors. In addition, some men may have reported relatively minor episodes of urine loss.
Incontinence may be more common than is usually suspected among adult men who visit doctors. Men with this problem often do not mention it to their health care providers. Doctors and other health care providers should consider routinely asking all men about incontinence, since it can often be successfully treated.
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