Male veterans age 55 and under are three times as likely to report urinary incontinence compared to men who’ve never served, according to researchers from the Atlanta VA Medical Center in Decatur, Georgia.
Although incontinence affects males of all ages, the condition is more common in older men, especially as they start to develop an enlarged prostate, infection, or diseases, such as multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s.
“We were surprised the association was only present in the younger age cohort,” lead author Dr. Camille Vaughan told Reuters Health.
Survey participants included 5,297 men over the age of 20 gathered between 2005 and 2008. Overall, 23% of those men had served in the U.S. Armed Forces. Researchers found that 18.6% of male veterans were more likely to report urinary incontinence, compared to 10.4% of men without military exposure.
Researchers also split the men into three age groups: 55 or younger, 56 to 69, and 70 or older. Among those 55 and younger, those who had served had a three times greater odds of incontinence, compared to men from the other two groups. There were no differences in the incontinence rates between the men in the two older groups.
The men who did experience incontinence, regardless of military exposure, were more likely to have an enlarged prostate, prostate cancer, depression, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart disease, diabetes, and be overweight.
Combat explosions, as well as psychological stress and post-traumatic stress, could affect bladder control, Dr. Christopher Amling of the urology department of Oregon Health and Science University told Reuters Health. Causes of urinary issues in the younger veterans are still uncertain.
Military men who do experience a loss of bladder control can perform pelvic floor exercises, practice bladder training, or take medication. Using male pads can also help with incontinence management.