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What No One Tells You About Incontinence After Prostate Surgery

What No One Tells You About Incontinence After Prostate Surgery

July 25, 2014

It’s estimated that as many as 240,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year, about 160,000 of which go on to have surgery to treat the condition. And while surgery is often effective – and accompanied by a five-year survival rate of 99 percent – no procedure, let alone prostate surgery, is without its side effects. Perhaps the most common long-term side effect from prostate surgery is incontinence.

Incontinence After Prostate Surgery

Most men experience incontinence issues following prostate surgery, simply because the procedure weakens their bladders, often leading to unintentional urination. So just why does bladder weakness occur? It’s because during surgery, the bladder neck sphincter ring of muscles are often irritated or damaged. And it’s these muscles that prevent urine leakage.

While not all men will experience incontinence following a prostate procedure, there are some tell-tale signs and symptoms on when unintentional urine leakage is occurring. These include during:

  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Laughing
  • Lifting
  • Walking
  • Other activities that increase pressure of the abdomen

Now, it’s worth noting that incontinence after prostate surgery typically isn’t permanent. The bladder neck sphincter muscles eventually will heal – but this can take anywhere from 6 to 12 months. So most men are tasked with the challenge of managing incontinence until it improves.

Managing Incontinence

Dealing with incontinence after prostate surgery can be challenging for most men, mainly due to the fact that they find it difficult to talk with someone to help them cope with such issues. They often attempt to go at it alone. You can always talk to your doctor if you’re experiencing incontinence issues, but generally speaking, here are some ways to combat the situation yourself:

  • Incontinence briefs: Don’t get these confused with adult diapers – they’re much more subtle. They’re also effective, and work well in absorbing leaking urine.
  • Pelvic exercises: One way to accelerate the healing of your pelvic muscles – including the bladder neck sphincter – is to regularly perform pelvic exercises. These can be as simple as trying to stop the flow of urine as you’re going to the bathroom and then restarting it. More advanced exercises include trying to tighten abdominal muscles every time you feel a cough or sneeze coming on.
  • Eat and drink right: Drink at least 2 liters of water every day and avoid caffeine and alcohol. Also, make sure that your diet is rich with fruits, vegetables and bread.
  • Other options: Incontinence pads are another viable solution to manage symptoms. Another option is a condom drainage, an instrument that fits over the penis and collects leaking urine.

While it can be a difficult thing to cope with, incontinence after prostate surgery is completely normal for men to experience. And while it may persist for up to a year following surgery, there are a number of measures you can take to manage symptoms, as well as several things you can also do – such as pelvic exercises and eating right – to speed recovery of the pelvic muscles. For more information on managing incontinence symptoms, read our blog on minimizing incontinence symptoms.

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