Urinary Incontinence (Stress Incontinence)


This condition is an inability to hold back urine when pressure or physical stress is placed on the bladder. Stress incontinence can cause embarrassing incidents of wet clothing.


Stress incontinence is caused by weakness of the muscles or ligaments that support the bladder. It can also be caused by weakness of the sphincter muscles that close off the urethra (the tube that urine passes through as it leaves the body). In women, genetics can play a role in stress incontinence, but it is usually associated with physical changes after pregnancy, delivery or menopause. In men, prostate surgery can cause stress incontinence.


Stress incontinence results in uncontrollable urine leaks. Sneezing, coughing, laughing, standing up, exercising or heavy lifting can cause these leaks. Leaks may not happen every time a person engages in these activities. They may happen when the person has a full bladder, but they can happen even when the bladder isn’t full.


Treatment options may include behavioral techniques such as bladder training, scheduling trips to the bathroom, and managing fluid intake. Physical therapy can help patients strengthen and control the sphincter and pelvic floor muscles. Other treatment options include medications, medical devices such as urethral inserts or incontinence pessaries, or a surgically-implanted sling that supports the urethra. For some severe types of stress incontinence, injections given around the urethra can thicken this tissue to help keep the urethra closed.