Products Offer Simple Solution to Embarrassing Male Urinary Incontinence

An estimated 5 million men in the United States experience some form of urinary leakage, though urinary incontinence is an under reported condition. Fortunately, many products exist to help manage and reduce the stigma of the condition.

"Any disease, condition or injury that damages nerves can lead to urination problems," says Kevin R. O'Donnell, global product manager of Health Care Products, Coloplast, Santa Barbara, Calif. Among the conditions that might cause urinary incontinence are diabetes, stroke, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, spina bifida, prostrate problems and spinal cord injury.

While urinary incontinence — not to be confused with urinary retention which can result in renal failure if not treated — does not pose any significant health dangers, managing the condition can help prevent skin irritation and the embarrassment of involuntary urine loss, says O'Donnell.

The HealthCentral Network's new incontinence site is a great resource for incontinence clients. The site offers support groups, regular blogs and more. Visit

Two options exist for men with urinary incontinence — treat the condition or manage it. Treatment involves a surgical procedure, while management means using products to address urine loss. In the past, absorbent products, commonly referred to as adult diapers, were the top choice. But thanks to advances in technology, other options provide more discreet solutions.

"More and more men are turning toward condom catheters as an alternative solution," says O'Donnell. "A condom catheter is applied in the exact same manner as a condom. However, unlike condoms, condom catheters incorporate some type of adhesive. For example, some use a double-sided foam adhesive, while others are self-adhering; meaning that the adhesive is on the catheter itself. A condom catheter is attached to an external collection device, usually a leg bag, which can be drained and reused. "Some of the reasons more and more men are switching to a condom catheter system is that they prefer a simple solution to help solve their urinary incontinence," says O'Donnell. "Carrying and disposing diapers is anything but simple, especially for men who travel. A condom catheter can be worn for up to 24 hours. Unlike diapers, which need to be changed frequently, a man using a condom catheter system can simply empty his leg bag in a urinal throughout the day. It's a very discrete solution, which is important to those suffering from urinary incontinence. Also, condom catheters and leg bags are reimbursed, whereas diapers are not."

Condom catheters, also known as external catheters, could be an issue for men with dexterity issues, according to the American Urological Association, Linthicum, Md., so it's important to evaluate the client's ability when recommending products.

Other options for urinary incontinence include catheters, intermittent catheters and penile clamps.

O'Donnell offers the following tips to help clients select the right products:

  • Understand the user's lifestyle — Is the client active?
  • Sizing is essential — Many manufacturers offer sizing guides. Improper sizing can cause leaks or irritation.
  • Evaluate dexterity — Coloplast offers a leg bag with a flip valve for easy operation.

Photo: The Freedom Brand male external catheter and leg bag system from Mentor Corp. (Coloplast) offers a simple solution for managing male incontinence.

This article originally appeared in the June 2006 issue of HME Business.

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