Risk Factors and Causes for Male Incontinence

Prevalence of male incontinence increases with age, but the condition is not a normal part of aging. Acute (i.e., sudden, temporary) involuntary urine loss may be caused by some medications (e.g., antidepressants, antihistamines), bed rest (e.g., immobility following surgery), weight gain, urinary tract infection (UTI), and severe constipation that results in impacted stool. In some cases, alcohol abuse, high caffeine intake, and smoking contribute to the condition.

A number of medical conditions also can increase the risk for male incontinence. Risk factors include the following:

  • Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH, enlarged prostate)
  • Bladder cancer
  • Congenital abnormalities of the urinary tract or nervous system (e.g., birth defects, spina bifida)
  • Dementia
  • Diabetes
  • External beam radiation (e.g., to treat prostate cancer)
  • Injury to the urinary tract or nervous system (e.g., spinal cord injury)
  • Neurological disorders (e.g., Alzheimer's disease, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease)
  • Obesity/overweight
  • Overactive bladder (OAB)
  • Prostatitis
  • Radical prostatectomy (removal of the prostate gland)
  • Stroke
  • Urinary stones

Signs and Symptoms of Male Incontinence

Urinary incontinence is characterized by involuntary urine loss. Symptoms depend on the cause for the condition and the type of incontinence. Stress incontinence results in the leakage of urine during activities that put pressure on the abdomen, such as, coughing, sneezing, laughing, and exercising.

Urge incontinence causes the sudden, often uncontrollable, need to empty the bladder, frequent urination, and nighttime urination (nocturia). Symptoms of overflow incontinence can include difficulty beginning urination (hesitancy), an inability to completely empty the bladder, a weak urine stream, and dribbling or dripping urine.

Other symptoms can include blood in the urine (hematuria) and painful urination (dysuria). These symptoms, which may indicate a serious condition, require medical attention.

Chronic urinary incontinence can cause a number of complications, including skin rashes, skin infections, and chronic urinary tract infections (UTI). The condition also can result in psychological problems (e.g., anxiety, depression), can disrupt regular daily activities (e.g., work, sleep), and can affect sexual function.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 24 Sep 2007

Last Modified: 24 Sep 2015