Stress Urinary Incontinence

Urinary incontinence is the unintentional loss of urine. Stress incontinence happens when physical movement or activity — such as coughing, laughing, sneezing, running, or heavy lifting — puts pressure (stress) on your bladder, causing you to leak urine. Stress incontinence is not related to psychological stress.

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For most people, simple lifestyle changes or medical treatment can ease discomfort or stop urinary incontinence.

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If you experience urine leakage while moving or exercising, see a urologist.

Additional Information

Causes & Risk Factors

Stress incontinence may occur as a result of stretching, weakening, or otherwise damaging the pelvic floor muscles that support the bladder and urethra. This damage could occur as a result of the following:

  • pregnancy
  • childbirth
  • obesity
  • chronic coughing
  • repetitive heavy lifting
  • nerve injury to the lower back
  • surgery to the pelvic area or prostate

The following factors may increase a person’s risk of developing stress incontinence:

  • being biologically female
  • menopause
  • natural aging
  • smoking

Symptoms

The main symptom of stress incontinence is the loss of bladder control during physical activity. If you have stress incontinence, you may leak urine when you:

  • Cough or sneeze
  • Laugh
  • Bend over
  • Lift something heavy
  • Exercise
  • Have intercourse

You may not experience incontinence every time you do one of these things, but any activity that increases pressure on your bladder can make you more vulnerable to unintentional urine loss, particularly when your bladder is full.

Treatment

Treatment for stress incontinence varies according to the underlying cause of your problem. Your doctor will help you come up with a treatment plan using a combination of medications and lifestyle adjustments.

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