Information for the public
The lower urinary tract consists of the bladder (the organ that holds urine), prostate gland (which produces the fluid that carries semen when a man ejaculates) and urethra (the tube that carries urine from the bladder to the end of the penis). This information refers to problems affecting this part of the body as urinary symptoms, but your doctor might refer to them as LUTS (lower urinary tract symptoms). Urinary symptoms are common. About 3 in 10 men aged 50 or older have them – but they can also affect younger men.
There are many different symptoms, which fall into 2 broad categories: voiding and storage.
Voiding symptoms are to do with passing urine. A common cause of voiding symptoms is a large prostate gland. The prostate gland lies just below the bladder and around the urethra. In many men, the prostate gets larger as they get older. Doctors might refer to this as 'benign prostatic hyperplasia', or BPH for short. A large prostate can press on the urethra causing symptoms such as having a weak stream, finding it difficult to start urinating (called hesitancy), straining to urinate, and the urine stream starting and stopping.
Storage symptoms are to do with storing urine in the bladder. For example, needing to urinate urgently and/or frequently, needing to get up frequently in the night to urinate (called nocturia) or leaking urine when you don't mean to (called incontinence). One type is urgency incontinence, when you feel a sudden need to urinate and then can't stop some urine leaking out before you get to the toilet. This is often caused by the bladder muscle contracting before the bladder is full (called overactive bladder syndrome). If urine leaks when you strain – for example when you cough or sneeze or lift a heavy object – this is called stress incontinence. This can be a side effect of an operation on the prostate gland. The commonest form of leakage is when a small amount of urine dribbles into the underpants after urinating.