Your prostate and incontinence

What does your prostate have to do with urinary incontinence? Lots, it turns out.

Your prostate gland is an organ that's about the size of a walnut. It is part of the male reproductive system and is responsible for making part of the milky fluid (called seminal fluid) that combines with sperm to make semen.

In men, problems with the prostate can often cause incontinence. One of the reasons is because the prostate is located just below the bladder where urine is stored, at the base of the penis. The prostate also surrounds the urethra (the tube that allows urine to flow out the body).

As men get older, it's common for the prostate gland to enlarge. The enlarged prostate can squeeze the urethra, which affects the flow of urine. The condition of an enlarged prostate is called benign prostatic hyperplasia or benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH).

Prostatitis, inflammation of the prostate gland, is another problem that can occur with the prostate. Prostatitis can lead to painful and frequent urination.

Incontinence may also be a consequence of prostate cancer treatment (usually surgery, radiation, or both) forn some men.

If you have had prostate surgery, you may also experience incontinence after the surgery. Types of prostate surgery include:

  • Transurethral resection of the prostate or TURP, where an instrument is inserted up the urethra to remove part of the prostate. It is used for 90% of all surgeries done for BPH).
  • Radical prostatectomy, which is used to treat prostate cancer and involves the complete removal of the prostate gland. Surgery may damage the bladder wall or urinary sphincter, which can lead to incontinence.

Incontinence after surgery is usually temporary, but sometimes it is permanent.

Because the prostate can have such a huge impact on your urinary system, one of the first things your doctor may do if you say you have incontinence is to check for prostate problems. Your doctor may perform a digital rectal exam (inserting a gloved finger into the rectum to feel the prostate) to check the size of the prostate. Your doctor may also do a blood test to check for prostate-specific antigen (PSA), a substance naturally produced by the prostate. High levels of PSA may be a sign of BPH, prostatitis, or prostate cancer.

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