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Military service may be risk factor for urinary incontinence in men

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Military service was linked with moderate to severe urinary incontinence in U.S. men, even after consideration of other known risk factors, in new research presented in Atlanta last week at the 107th Annual Scientific Meeting of the American Urological Association.

The reason why military exposure would be linked to urinary incontinence is not known, Dr. Alayne Markland, from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and the Birmingham Department of Veterans Affairs told Reuters Health.

“We don’t know any specific details, such as the branch of service, deployment status, exposure during service, but we do feel as though more research is needed to link specific types of combat or branch of service to urinary symptoms,” Dr. Markland said.

In the study, the researchers reviewed survey data obtained from the 2005-2006 and 2007-2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES) on 5,297 men age 20 and older.

The men were stratified into three age groups: less than 55, between 55 and 69, and 70 years and older. Military exposure was assessed with the question: “Did you ever serve in the Armed Forces of the United States?”

Compared to men with no military exposure, those who had served in the military had higher rates of any urinary incontinence (18.8% vs 10.4%; p<0.001) and moderate to severe urinary incontinence (8.4% vs 2.8%; p<0.001).

Men in the youngest age group were three times more likely to have moderate to severe urinary incontinence if they had served in the military, compared with their peers who had no military service (odds ratio 3.04).

However, there were no significant differences in the odds of urinary incontinence for the middle age group (OR 1.05) and the oldest group (OR 0.86).

“I hope this study will increase awareness that urinary incontinence and other urinary symptoms are common among men, especially relatively younger men who have served in the US armed forces. Treatments are available for urinary symptoms, and we need to do more research on the type of military exposure that may be contributing to this finding,” Dr. Markland said.