Combating the Taboo of Bladder Problems in Men
- On June 14, 2021
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- incontinence in men
The world of incontinence is often portrayed as a woman’s problem, however, this is simply not true. Although women are more likely than men to have urinary incontinence, the prevalence of bladder problems in men shows that this is a fairly common issue.
The Invisible Struggle
Sadly, the number of men with incontinence could be much higher than we think. One in four men who’ve experienced bladder leakage claim they are too embarrassed to even talk about it with immediate family members, according to a survey done by Continex. Men, in particular, resist talking about it. Gordon Muir, Consultant Urologist at King’s College Hospital asserts, “men will just not talk about it, so no-one really knows the true extent. Bourne, an American Urologist, calls this resistance the “rule of men”. He claims, “we don’t often seek medical advice for anything, whether it’s general medical problems or things that really bother us, like wetting our pants”. A recent US and UK study of 500 men found that the majority of men taking part in the survey had no idea how often they should undergo vital health checks. Surprisingly, up to 20% of the men did not know what a Urologist is.
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One theory for the resistance to sharing their problem is that women access healthcare from an earlier age. Women have to manage contraception, cervical screening and childbirth. Lack of resources could also be responsible for this, as there is a lot of publicity for women’s health screening programmes. According to a Newsweek article discussing men and women’s health, women tend to prioritize health as a topic of conversation more highly than men do. John Oliffe, scholar and UBC Nursing Professor, asserts, “research surrounding men’s health argues that many men are actually disenfranchised by the structures that govern their health practices.” He asserts, “I would argue that every time we intervene to advance men’s health, the benefits can reach a lot of people beyond just men”.
The Psychological Impact of Male Bladder Issues
Studies over the years have shown that urinary incontinence in men causes problems such as decreased quality of life, reduced self-confidence, isolation and avoidance of many activities. Perhaps the suicide rate of men being 3-4 times that of women can further demonstrate the consequences of not talking about health problems. Ultimately, there is more to male incontinence than just the symptom. It can severely affect how you see yourself. It can someone who is confident feel humiliated and exposed. Along with annoying symptoms, incontinence can have a corrosive effect on your state of mind. The word “nappy” can make people think of weakness and childhood. When a man then has to look through a supermarket to find an incontinence product, they can experience shock and embarrassment.
By not talking about incontinence or seeing a Doctor, men have the risk of other conditions being undiagnosed and untreated. Common causes of incontinence in men include damaged bladder muscles, prostate conditions and neurological diseases such as Diabetes. Without access to vital medications, men are ultimately reducing their quality of life. Previous urinary incontinence sufferer Derick asserts, “like anything it causes you anxiety and embarrassment, I always chose not to discuss it. However, after meeting so many people over the last few years suffering from incontinence, I figured it was time to stand up”. He insists, “If you have a story, I encourage you to share it”.
Ending the Taboo and Starting the Conversation
By encouraging more men to talk about incontinence, this can open the door for more individuals coming forward and sharing their experience. Dr Sarah McMullen, NTC Head of Knowledge states, “many people find bladder health a difficult and embarrassing subject to raise. However, if we can break the taboo, we can bring about a change that will dramatically improve the lives of thousands of people!” Advertisements and support groups are aiming to progressively break the taboo and promote incontinence as a problem for both men and women. For example, a Tena Men Advert released in 2015 aimed to encourage men by tackling the problem with comedy. Stirling Gravitas, a “gold medallist” was the new face of Tena Men incontinence pads. Promoting the message that incontinence does not make you weak, he claims “I am in control of all aspects of my life”. Hospitals saw an untapped opportunity in the men’s health market in 2014. Efforts are still being made to address disparities in preventive care. The Cleveland Clinic is using it’s “MENtion It” campaign as a method to increase education, distributing men’s health guidance and getting conversations started. Men should not have to simply put up with the symptoms in order to resist feeling embarrassed. As Edward James Wright, assistant professor of urology states, “the bottom line is that incontinence isn’t something you have to live with”. Sacrificing your pride for a second and talking to a Doctor can help you and many others.
Are you showing symptoms of urinary incontinence? Read about the common urinary symptoms here.