UW Health Men's Health Clinic: Frequently Asked Questions

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Following are some common questions about men's health, answered by UW Health experts.


The information on this website is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. All content contained on this site is for general information purposes only. If you have a specific question about your care, please contact your physician.


Why do I pee more at night?


Does it feel like you are constantly being woken from a sound sleep to use the bathroom? Medically known as nocturia, the frequent need to urinate can increase as we age and can be made worse by excessive intake of beverages, especially alcohol or drinks with caffeine.


However, frequent urination may also be the sign of a prostate problem or something more serious. If you currently experience sleep apnea, have congestive heart failure, diabetes or neurological disorders and experience increased urination at night, please contact your primary care doctor.


Why can’t I control my urine?


How your bladder functions may tell you a lot about your overall health. Urinary incontinence, the accidental release of urine, can be short-term or can be chronic and long-lasting. Natural aging, obesity, alcohol, an enlarged prostate, past surgeries or nerve damage can often lead to not being able to control your urine. Types of urinary incontinence include:

  • Stress incontinence happens when you sneeze, cough, laugh, lift objects or do something that puts strain or stress on your bladder and you leak urine. While this can happen to anyone, it can occur in men who have their prostate removed for cancer.
  • Urge incontinence is a feeling of having to pee that is so strong that you can’t make it to the toilet.
  • Overflow incontinence is caused when your bladder fails to empty all the way and then leaks later because it is too full. It can be caused by weak bladder muscles or the urethra being blocked by an enlarged prostate.

If your urinary incontinence gets worse or does not go away, or if you experience any weakness, numbness, fever, chills, blood in the urine or a change in bowel habits, reach out to your doctor.


When should I be concerned about my prostate?


For men who have an average risk of prostate cancer, it is recommended that you begin having prostate cancer screenings starting around the age of 55. For individuals who are considered at a higher risk, screening is recommended beginning around the age of 40. Risk factors for prostate cancer include:

  • Family history: Having a father or brother diagnosed with prostate cancer doubles a man’s risk of developing this disease indicating there may be an inherited or genetic factor. This risk becomes much higher for a person with several affected relatives.
  • Race/ethnicity: Men of African-American and Caribbean African ancestry are twice as likely to be diagnosed with and die of prostate cancer as white men.

Why does my erection hurt?


Erection pain can have multiple causes.

  • Peyronie’s disease is an abnormal curvature of the penis. It can interfere with intercourse by making sex painful, being unable to penetrate, or causing erectile dysfunction. While Peyronie’s is more common with age, it can occur at any stage in life.
  • While uncommon, penile fractures can be caused when there is trauma to an erect penis. If you are aware of trauma, hear a popping sound, experience severe pain or have swelling or dark bruising of the penis, seek emergency care immediately.
  • Priapism is a painful, prolonged erection, typically lasting more than four hours. Priapism can be due to certain blood conditions or side effects of certain drugs and medications. If this occurs, you should seek emergency care immediately or permanent damage could occur.
  • Skin disorders are uncommon but can cause penis pain. If you notice any changes to the skin, if the skin tears easily, is bright red or bruises easily you could be experiencing lichen sclerosus and you should seek medical help.

Often the pain will resolve itself but if it persists or if you are experiencing unexplained sores, discharge, bleeding or have a lump on the penis, talk to your doctor.


Why is my erection curving?


Do I have a rare disease or even worse, cancer? Every penis is bent slightly but if your penis is bent so much it is making intercourse difficult or even painful, it is possible that you have Peyronie’s disease. Affecting between 1-9 percent of men, Peyronie’s disease is a condition resulting from scar tissue in the lining of the erectile chambers. If the problem makes intercourse difficult or is accompanied with hard lumps on the penis, see your doctor.


Why can’t I get or keep an erection?


Erectile difficulties are common and may affect up to 10 percent of men per decade of life, i.e. 50 percent of men in their 50’s, 70 percent of men in their 70’s, etc. Common causes include use of alcohol or recreational drugs, exhaustion, certain prescription medications, stress, smoking, relationship problems and anxiety. Problems with ejaculation, such as premature ejaculation, may also make it difficult to keep an erection.


However, if none of these seem to apply to you, it could be a sign of something bigger. Erectile problems, especially in young men, have been linked to developing heart disease, diabetes, thyroid problems and other health issues and you should speak with your doctor.


Is there a link between heart issues and erections?


Erectile dysfunction can be an early sign of heart disease. The connection between ED and heart disease isn’t as far-fetched as it may seem. Both your heart and your penis need a steady flow of blood. As cholesterol builds up in the blood vessel walls, the flow of blood is restricted to all areas of the body. Research has shown that making lifestyle changes such as lowering cholesterol, controlling blood pressure, losing weight, a change in diet and exercising more can help alleviate both heart disease and erectile dysfunction.


Is there a link between smoking and erection?


Yes. Nicotine causes your blood vessels to contract which impairs/reduces blood flow to the penis. The longer you smoke the more difficult it will become to treat or reverse erectile dysfunction. Smoking also causes heart problems which can make erectile dysfunction even worse. Need help quitting? Talk to your doctor for suggestions and resources or call 1-800-QUIT-NOW, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.