Men’s Health Week: Taking care of your bladder
Every June, Men’s Health Week not only highlights and dissipates the taboos surrounding men’s health but it also encourages conversation and action.
The conversation of health relates to men of all ages. In fact, as men get older, there are specific physical changes that can come to the fore – including bladder control.
As a man, learning how to take care of your bladder and being able to identify bladder changes is essential. Changes to your bladder can cause several problems that range from affecting your quality of life to life-threatening – such as urinary tract infections (UTIs), bladder infections and urinary incontinence. In this blog, we’ll discuss some of the ways you can take care of your bladder and how to deal with bladder problems that may arise.
Tips for taking care of your bladder
Bladder health is something that can, and will, change as a result of the ageing process that we all go through. As such, you’ll not be able to negate the risk of bladder problems completely. However, there are certain things you can do to reduce this risk and keep your bladder as healthy as it can be. Here are some ways in which you can take care of your bladder:
- Stop smoking – Smoking is widely known to be detrimental to our health and the bladder is no exception. Smoking not only increases the risk of bladder cancer, but the toxins from tobacco and nicotine also have to be flushed from our bodies through the urinary tract. This is thought to be linked to urinary incontinence. Additionally, chronic coughing caused by smoking can place pressure on the pelvic muscles and bladder, also increasing the risk of incontinence.
- Cut caffeine and alcohol intake – Whether it’s alcohol or caffeinated drinks – like certain carbonated drinks, tea and coffee – it can be a good idea to cut down on these particular beverages.
- Consume lots of water – When it comes to bladder health, water is king. In general, we should be aiming to consume about two litres of fluid per day – which is just over four pint glasses of water a day. Aim to have water as half of your daily fluid intake (two pints). Make sure to consult with your GP beforehand to work out how much water you should be consuming as certain conditions can affect how much water you should consume.
- Fully relieve your bladder – When you go to the toilet, make sure you’re not rushing, as your bladder may not be getting emptied. Urine that stays too long in your bladder can increase the risk of infection.
- Use the bathroom when you need it – Similarly, you’ll want to use the bathroom when you need it. Urine that stays in your bladder for too long increases your risk of a bladder infection, and weakens your bladder muscles.
- Exercise – Physical activity doesn’t only reduce the number of bladder problems that you experience but it can also reduce or keep you at the optimal weight to decrease the risk of bladder-related complications.
- Wear loose-fitting clothing – Tight clothing can cause bacteria to grow due to trapping moisture. Loose-fitting clothing, such as cotton boxers, will allow air to circulate the urethra area to keep it dry.
Common bladder problems in men
While there are methods to reduce the risk of bladder problems, there’s no way to completely remove the risk of developing an issue. As such, it’s good to know how your bladder may change, as you get older.
Here are some of the most common bladder problems:
- Urinary incontinence: The unintentional passing of urine, which affects millions of people. There are many different types of incontinence: stress incontinence (urine leaking when you’re physically active, sneezing, coughing or laughing); urge incontinence (consistently needing to go to the toilet); and overflow incontinence (your bladder never fully empties so it feels consistently full). Functional incontinence relates to when you can’t get to the toilet for a variety of reasons (such as not being able to get to a toilet in time).
- Nocturia: A condition that occurs when you wake up during the night to urinate. This can happen multiple times and can severely disturb a person’s sleeping patterns.
- Bladder cancer: While not as common as the above two, roughly one in 27 men will develop bladder cancer in their lifetime. As nine out of 10 people diagnosed with this disease are over 55, it’s an important issue for older men to learn about.
- Benign prostate enlargement (BPE): This is when the prostate, a gland situated between the bladder and penis, becomes enlarged. The gland puts pressure on both the urethra (what urine passes through) and the bladder. It can stop your bladder from being fully emptied, make peeing difficult and increase the frequency of needing to pee. While the condition itself isn’t serious to many men, it can cause long-term incontinence and increase the risk of prostate cancer in some men.
Treatment for urinary incontinence
Whether due to a weak bladder or benign prostate enlargement (BPE), urinary incontinence affects many men – especially those aged over 55. Thankfully, there are several treatments to help counteract problems arising from urinary incontinence.
Firstly, lifestyle changes can reduce the severity of urinary incontinence. This includes drinking less alcohol and fizzy drinks, drinking less at night, emptying your bladder regularly, training your pelvic muscles or bladder, using pads to soak up leakage and eating more fibre (as constipation puts more pressure on the bladder).
Medication may be able to help if these lifestyle changes don’t make a difference. Common medications include alpha blockers (to relax the prostate gland), anticholinergics (to relax overactive bladder muscles), 5-alpha-reductase inhibitors (to shrink an enlarged prostate), desmopressin (to slow down urine production) and diuretics (to speed up urine production). By their nature though, these need to be assessed in relation to your particular circumstanced by your family doctor or GP.
If you’re still experiencing problems, you may need a catheter to help drain your bladder. This tube helps to carry the urine out of your bladder and, almost always, into a bag. If this doesn’t work, surgery to attempt to correct the issue or alleviate symptoms could be the final option.
There are four types of catheters offered to men who are living with urinary incontinence. The type of catheter provided to each individual can vary, and this can be affected by factors such as a person’s mental alertness, mobility and lifestyle.
The different types of catheters include:
- External catheters: Also known as male catheters or condom catheters, they consist of a PVC, latex or silicone sheath that is attached to the penis with an adhesive. The tube comes out the other end, which is connected to a drainage bag to store urine. Unlike other catheters, it doesn’t sit inside a person’s body.
- Intermittent catheters: These are inserted into the bladder through the urethra to allow for urination when necessary. They are often used for temporary purposes.
- Indwelling catheters: Like intermittent catheters, they are inserted into the bladder through the urethra. An inflatable balloon is at the internal end of the catheter to keep it in place, while the outer end connects to a drainage bag. It needs to be replaced every few weeks.
- Suprapubic catheters: These catheters are passed directly into the bladder through the abdominal wall. This requires surgery and needs to be performed every six to eight weeks.
Despite catheters alleviating the symptoms of urinary incontinence for many men, they can also increase the chance of developing urinary tract infections over the long-term. Bacteria colonising on the catheter, allowing the microbes to thrive and multiply, can cause urinary tract infections. This infection is known as a catheter-associated urinary tract infection (CAUTI), and it’s mostly as a result of indwelling or suprapubic catheters.
UroShield promotes better bladder health
While catheters are absolutely vital in curtailing the distress of living with urinary incontinence, they do pose a risk to your bladder health and can cause serious bladder infections. However, there’s a way to almost completely mitigate these complications, thanks to a medical device called UroShield.
This small, unobtrusive gadget connects to a catheter and emits high-frequency, low-intensity ultrasound waves that reverberate along all surfaces of the catheter to prevent the build-up of biofilm (colonies of bacteria that grow on surfaces).
As biofilm is difficult to break down via antibiotics, UroShield is the most effective way to reduce the chance of CAUTIs and bladder infections. The device’s vibrations can also reduce catheter-associated bladder spasms and pain, and prevent the formation of encrustation and blockages that occur as a result of crystalline deposits of mineral salts from urine. UroShield works well with both suprapubic and urethral catheters.
If you would like to find out more about the UroShield device and how it can benefit you, call 020 8773 7844 or fill in our online form.
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Nothing in this article should be taken as qualified medical advice. This article is for information purposes only. You should always discuss medical issues and symptom with your own doctor.