Updated 03 August 2015

Report implores men to seek help for bladder weakness

Instead of ignoring bladder problems hoping that they will go away, men should rather seek earlier medical advice and treatment, a new report suggests.


Urinary incontinence or bladder weakness is more common in South Africa than HIV/AIDS – it affects about 5.2-million women and 2.4-million men. And yet, it’s one of those things no-one talks about.

For some reason, people picture bladder weakness as affecting only senior citizens, but men as young as 50 can display lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS), even if the men who experience those symptoms are somewhat in denial, and tend to ignore the problem in the hope that it will go away.

Statistics in South Africa aren’t available, so we follow global trends, and in Europe, for example, on average 40% of men wait a year or more before seeing their doctor about LUTS.

In the UK, that figure rises to 67% ? both alarming figures. Because the irony of the situation is that in so many cases, there is help available, and not necessarily in the form of adult diapers. Bladder weakness is a condition that can be treated in a variety of ways, including medication and lifestyle modification.

The LUTS Report: Pan-European insight into male incontinence, was presented at the European Men’s Health Forum recently. It featured results following a research poll among men with LUTS and their partners, alongside opinions from leading experts on LUTS across Europe, including physicians, nurses, patients and continence advisors. 

The report identified three important calls to action:

1. Men need to be quicker to assess their own healthcare needs and seek advice sooner rather than later.

2. Healthcare systems should improve the physical and emotional environment where men feel comfortable in seeking help.

3. Health professionals have to be better communicators, and learn to treat the whole condition, including quality of life, not just specific symptoms.

In the report, Professor Klaus-Peter Jünemann from the department of urology at Universitaetsklinikum Schleswig Holstein in Germany says: “The subject of urinary incontinence is repeatedly dismissed as a minor ailment and is not taken seriously as a disease. It makes people lonely and shame-ridden. Our task is to make this sensitive, yet important subject public and to tackle it accordingly.”

Lower Urinary Tract Symptoms, known as LUTS, is a term used to describe a variety of difficulties associated with urination. These symptoms are very common and affect approximately half of men over 50.

Problems include:

- Difficulty in starting to pass urine.

- Weak urine flow that sometimes starts and stops.

- Dribbling before and after using the toilet.

- Needing to urinate often or urgently.

- Not being able to hold on when going to the bathroom.

- Needing to go during the night, sometimes many times (nocturia).

There are different causes of this condition, most linked to the prostate. The prostate enlarges, causing Benign Prostate Hyperplasia (BPH) when the gland presses on the bladder. By the age of 60, around six out of 10 men are affected, rising to nine out of 10 by age 85. In severe cases, surgery is needed for BPH, which can cause further problems with incontinence.

Surgery for cancer of the prostate can cause incontinence and LUTS, and three-quarters of cases of this cancer occur in men over 65.

Injury, serious illness or infection can also cause LUTS symptoms. This issue is significant because as men are living longer, an increasing number are suffering. As Italian urologist Dr Massimo Perachino wrote in the report: “Most men over 50 to 60 are still leading an active life and this makes LUTS less and less tolerable.”

The report reveals that many men with LUTS lose confidence and self-esteem, which inevitably has an adverse impact on their quality of life. And health issues are just not the kind of thing men like to talk about. This results in men becoming isolated and withdrawing from their normal lifestyles.

Men who have been high powered, in careers or simply as head of the family and household, can find LUTS humiliating. Dr Ian Banks says in the report: “Men feel they are losing control of their own destiny. They see LUTS as the last straw – that they can’t control themselves as a ‘real man.’ ”

The strongest message to come out of the report is that it’s vital for men to seek medical advice, to rule out conditions such as prostate cancer, to gain access to combination drug therapies that reduce the need to urinate so often, and to receive advice about personal self-management plans.

These plans can include pelvic floor exercises and the use of specialist bladder weakness products for men, like those produced by TENA. Purpose-made products are designed to be discreet, while providing excellent protection against leakage and odour. 

With adequate protection, and lifestyle modification, men with LUTS can ensure they continue to live a full life, unhindered by bladder weakness.

For more information or advice about bladder weakness, please call TENA on 0860 673 377. Order your free TENA sample by visiting our website  or shop online.

Read more:
Urinary Incontinence - 10 things all men need to know!
Bladder weakness protection perfectly engineered for men
TENA products offer the best protection against bladder weakness


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Prenevin Govender completed his MBChB at the University of Cape Town in 2001. He obtained his Fellowship of the College of Urologists in 2009 and graduated with distinction for a Masters in Medicine from the University of Cape Town in 2010. His special interests include laparoscopic, pelvic organ prolapse and urinary incontinence surgery. He consults full-time at Life Kingsbury Hospital in Claremont.

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