Stress Incontinence: Causes and Treatments

Stress incontinence  or SI refers to when some activity like sneezing or coughing leads to a small quantity of urine leaking from the urethra, the tube which urine passes through. SI is the type of incontinence most commonly suffered by women, particularly older women. Women who have gone through childbirth have a higher chance.

Facts About Stress Incontinence

While urinary incontinence is unintentionally losing urine, stress incontinence occurs due to some type of physical activity or movement which puts pressure/stress on the bladder. Examples of activities include heavy lifting, running, sneezing or coughing.

Different from urge incontinence, stress incontinence involves unintentionally losing urine for the contracting of bladder muscles, which is typically associated with feeling urgent. It is actually the most common type of urinary incontinence and around three million women just within the UK experience regular incontinence. This issue becomes more common among older women and for those over 40 years old.

Experts believe that this number of people affected by stress incontinence is actually lower than the actual number, as many people feel embarrassed and don't tell their doctors. Some may think it simply can't be treated or is part of aging. The reality, however, is that many cases can be improved significantly or completely cured.

What Causes Stress Incontinence?

Many different things can lead to stress incontinence. It can, for example, be due to weak pelvic floor muscles or the weak sphincter muscle at the bladder's neck. Any issue with the way the sphincter muscle functions (opening and closing) may also lead to stress incontinence. Other possible factors include chronic coughing, obesity or smoking.

In many cases, particularly for women, stress incontinence is due to physical changes within the body, including:

When stress incontinence occurs, pelvic muscles may weaken. This in turn can lead to the bladder dropping so that the urethra cannot completely close, leading to urine leakage.

What Are the Symptoms?

The main symptom of stress incontinence is urine leakage during certain activities. Some of the activities that can frequently trigger this leakage include:

Not everyone with stress incontinence will have leakage each time they perform the specific triggering action. Despite this, any activity that increases pressure on the area will increase the chances of accidentally losing urine and this is especially true in situations when the bladder is full.

How to Treat Stress Incontinence

1. Behavior Therapies

These therapies can help reduce stress incontinence episodes. Your doctor may suggest some of the following treatments:

2. Devices

There are specific devices which have been designed for women and can help you control stress incontinence. These include:

3. Surgery

Surgical interventions will help improve the sphincter's closure or support the neck of the bladder. Some of the surgical options include the following:

4. Home and Lifestyle Remedies

The following healthy lifestyle practices can help as well:

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