Tackling 'waterworks' problems among men over 50
Almost one in three men over 50 in the UK has ‘waterworks' problems. Many mistakenly accept their symptoms as a normal part of getting older - or simply feel too embarrassed to talk to anyone about it.
Symptoms include needing to go often - and urgently - to the toilet, not making it in time, ‘leaking' when you cough (stress incontinence) or ‘dribbling' afterwards. Others include a weak stream and difficultly starting - or straining - to urinate.
Doctors call urinating problems ‘lower urinary tract symptoms'. An enlarged prostate (often called benign prostatic hyperplasia or BPH) is one of the most common causes.
Now, however, men no longer need to put up with this inconvenience and embarrassment thanks to ‘The management of lower urinary tract symptoms in men', new NICE guidance for health professionals.
One man waited so long for a diagnosis and treatment (his symptoms were caused by a Chlamydia infection) that he was left with an overactive bladder. Every area of his life suffered - holidays, friendships, work and sex.
“If this guideline had existed when my problems started”, he says, “I might have got a diagnosis faster, saving a lot of pain and misery. Trying to stay socially continent was so stressful.”
NICE says GPs or nurses can help by providing special pads and other products to absorb leakages while men are waiting to find out what's causing the problem. (Many of them try to make do with extra underwear or handkerchiefs.) They can also give advice on self-help techniques, such as pelvic floor muscles exercises and bladder ‘training'.
Depending on what's causing the symptoms, NICE says some men might need drugs and, for some, surgery may be an option.
Another patient lived with an overactive bladder for over 40 years before talking to his GP. “From a young age, my parents and I just accepted it as a fact of life, so nothing was done about it. As a young man, it seriously affected my self-esteem.”
He hopes that NICE's advice will help men realise they do not have to live with the anguish caused by urinary problems.
Anyone who thinks they or their partner has lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTs) may want to read our booklet, 'Understanding NICE guidance - LUTS'. Specially developed for patients and their families and carers, it includes details of patient support groups that can help.
See also ‘The management of lower urinary tract symptoms in men' NICE clinical guideline 97.
This page was last updated: 19 May 2010