Incontinence after Prostate Surgery – What you should know?
Many men go into surgery thinking that once the prostate is removed their problems will be solved. Sometimes this is true and sometimes it is not. We want you to know what you should know so you can be prepared.
Here is an example:
Alan was 68 years old when he had a prostatectomy. “My doctor thought it was the best way to treat my prostate cancer and I agreed”, he said. “We talked about the risks involved, how to prepare for the surgery, and what would happen during the surgery, but it was what happened after prostate surgery that I didn’t expect. He never told me about the potential for bladder leaks.”
“I thought it was probably normal to have some incontinence after prostate surgery, but 6 weeks after I had the catheter removed, I was still unable to stand up without leaking urine. I’ll never forget the day I had my catheter taken out. I came home, had a beer to celebrate, and immediately it all just rushed out of me when I stood up a half-hour later. I just didn’t expect this to happen and was really worried that it was going to become a permanent part of my life.”
“I went in for a checkup, and that’s when my doctor told me that this is a common side effect for some men. He told me that the leaks would likely recover with time, and he went through my options and discussed what I could do to help speed up the recovery process, which was helpful. I just wish he would have told me all this sooner, before the surgery. At least then, I could have known what to expect.”*
Alan is not alone in this. It is common to experience incontinence after prostate surgery but it is NOT normal for it to linger long.
WHAT CAUSES INCONTINENCE AFTER PROSTATE SURGERY?
Urinary incontinence is a possible side effect of prostate removal surgery. The prostate is located just below the bladder and surrounds the urethra. Removing it, or using radiation to treat it, can sometimes cause damage to the nerves and muscles of the bladder, urethra, and or sphincter, which controls the passage of urine from the bladder. This can result in urinary incontinence. Most times this type of incontinence is stress incontinence, which occurs when pressure is placed on the bladder. Activities like sneezing, coughing, working out, lifting, jumping, and even standing up can cause you to leak urine.
IS INCONTINENCE NORMAL AFTER PROSTATE SURGERY?
Bladder leakage after prostate removal is not all that uncommon and typically will go away after your body begins to heal and your muscles regain strength. Approximately 6-8 percent of men who have had surgery to remove their prostate will develop urinary incontinence. (Cleveland Clinic) The good news is that most men will eventually regain bladder control with time.
HOW BAD IS INCONTINENCE AFTER PROSTATE SURGERY?
It depends! It can be anywhere from full-on incontinence, to light dribbles. Some men may only experience this with certain activities, like working out, whereas some may experience leaks when going from sitting to standing.
HOW LONG WILL I HAVE INCONTINENCE AFTER PROSTATE SURGERY?
Men will typically have a urinary catheter (a tube) inserted which will help drain the urine from the bladder after the surgery. The catheter is needed until the urethra heals, which typically takes anywhere from 1-3 weeks. After the catheter is removed, it can take several weeks or more to completely stop leaking. Most men who experience a loss of bladder control have symptoms for 6 months to 1-year post prostate surgery. However, a small percentage of men may continue to experience problems past the one-year mark.
DOES INCONTINENCE GO AWAY ON ITS OWN AFTER PROSTATE SURGERY?
For most men, urinary incontinence will go away within about 1 year but can vary depending on the severity of your incontinence, and how/what you are doing to manage it. Some men may recover from leaks within weeks, whereas others will take months for the bladder leaks to subside. Performing pelvic floor exercises, such as Kegels, or attending pelvic floor physical therapy can help strengthen the muscles to help speed the recovery process along.
We have therapists who specialize in pelvic floor physical therapy and want to get you confident and doing what you love with no worries that leakage would interfere. Give us a call (208)233-4800 if we want help!