When The “Going Problem” Becomes A Growing Problem

 urinary incontinence in men

Concluding his 3-part series on urinary incontinence in men suffering with benign prostatic hyperplasia, Dr. Richard Roach, of Advanced Urology in Oxford, FL, shares the story of a patient who found an alternative to chronic urinary catheter use.  

In my first two posts on the BHEALTH blog, I outlined the link between urinary retention and incontinence in men with benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) while highlighting some of the challenges of using indwelling catheters to treat BPH-related symptoms. For many individuals, there are significant drawbacks to long-term catheterization, among them a significantly heightened risk of infection and a variety of lifestyle restrictions. In this, my final post on BPH-related incontinence symptoms, I would like to share a story of one of my patients, and detail how an innovative treatment option transformed his life and ended his reliance on urinary catheters.  

Ray is a 65-year-old man who lives in The Villages, Florida. He was diagnosed with an enlarged prostate when he began experiencing severe BPH symptoms in October 2014. Like many men, he was placed on a Foley catheter, which drained his bladder but also led to discomfort, pain and self-consciousness. For more than six months, continuous use of the Foley catheter severely impacted even the most basic of Ray’s daily activities, and soon a series of urinary tract infections (UTI) led to frequent hospital stays. It was during one of his hospital visits that I was called to treat a UTI.

Ray had a very different future in mind before catheterization interrupted his life. He never envisioned himself spending the rest his days using a catheter; just six months earlier he was an avid golfer with a thriving social life and in relatively good health. Now he was weak, self-conscious about his leg bag and battling one infection after the other. 

During our first meeting he explained that much of his day revolved around catheter care. Ray explained that he was looking for a solution that worked with his lifestyle, not against it. Ray believed he was out of options, but he shared that he wanted just three things:

1.    Restore his continence and ability to naturally urinate

2.    End the recurring urinary tract infections

3.    Resume the daily activities he cherished most

And in Ray’s case, there was a solution. Several weeks after I first examined Ray, we inserted a temporary prostate stent to keep his urethra open and maintain urine flow. Prostatic stents are not yet widely adopted, but I have used them in my practice with great success. Like many patients using a temporary prostate stent with similar physical conditions, Ray immediately saw the benefits: he was able to fill and empty his bladder naturally, he had no more concerns about catheter maintenance, and he resumed nearly all of the daily activities that he couldn’t perform during his period of chronic catheterization. 

“Using the catheter was just not a nice way to live,” Ray told me. “With the stent in place, I felt normal again. Quite simply, I was able to resume my life. I felt healthier physically and mentally, just extremely fortunate to have found an option like the stent to replace the catheter and lead to a more permanent solution to my health problem. The stent saved me from using the Foley for the rest of my life.”

Ray’s case isn’t unique. Men all over the world struggle with incontinence due to BPH and other BPH symptoms. While some patients are not candidates for removal of the catheter, urologists have a wide variety of prostate treatment options. Every chronically catheterized patient should have a discussion with his urologist to understand if a catheter-free lifestyle is possible. 

As we close this series, I encourage all men suffering from symptoms of BPH (incontinence or otherwise) to bear in mind the importance of open dialogue and awareness of alternatives. Find out what treatment options are available to you; ask the right questions and be an informed healthcare consumer. It could make all the difference in the world. 

Best of health, and thanks for reading!