Separating incontinence myth from fact


Bladder problems are common in men. Especially older men. Having trouble going, going too often or a constant sensation of having to go – or worse yet, the problems of not being able to completely empty your bladder – are common complaints.

But while problems are more common as we age, incontinence and bladder problems are not, as it’s often believed, just something that comes with getting older. Yes, as we age muscles become weaker, and the muscle that support the bladder and urination are no exception. However, more often than not, the problem can be traced to something other than age, and can be easily treated.

“It’s just a part of goring older” is one of the myths that are bandied about around this embarrassing problem, but not the only one. Here are a few myths, as well as incontinence facts for men:


Myth: “I must have a small bladder.”

Unless you’ve had surgery that has the effect of reducing the size of your bladder, doctors point out that most everyone’s bladder is about the same size. It may be just a quirk of individual behavior if you seem to be going to the bathroom more, but it’s unlikely you have a small bladder.

Fact: In many cases, the prostate is the culprit.

Around 30 percent of men in the U.S. suffer from an overactive bladder, and an enlarged prostate is the leading cause. When your prostate, a walnut-sized gland that surrounds the tube that carries urine away from the bladder, is enlarged, you may experience a decreased urine stream, “dribbling,” the need to “make water” several times a day and a few at night, or trouble starting to pee.

While these symptoms may be early signs of prostate cancer, they can easily be symptomatic of less-serious problems (like prostatitis, consuming too much caffeine or a kidney infection) that are much more treatable.


Myth: Drinking less helps with incontinence.

While some subscribe to this tactic, doctors say it actually has little with how much you drink as much as what and when you drink. Dehydration is more likely to be the result of cutting back on liquids, rather than helping with incontinence.

Instead, doctors suggest being mindful of when and what you drink. Don’t drink a lot before bedtime, which leads to several trips to the bathroom at night. You can steer clear of other inopportune times like long road trips by minding when you drink. Also, they suggest avoiding caffeine, soda and juice, which can exacerbate bladder problems.


Fact: Smoking may be part of the problem.

Along with soda and caffeine, nicotine has been identified as a bladder irritant. So, there’s another reason to quit smoking. Alcohol, too, is a known diuretic that makes you go more often.


Myth: “Holding it” leads to incontinence.

Doctors agree that “holding it” “” waiting after the first urge to use the bathroom “” has little to no effect on bladder function. In fact, if it does affect bladder function at all, it strengthens the muscles around the bladder and actually helps with incontinence.