Urinary incontinence is an accidental leak of urine. Stress incontinence occurs when a physical activity puts pressure on the bladder and leads to loss of urine. The physical activity can be sneezing, running, weight lifting, or coughing.
Remember that, stress urinary incontinence has nothing to do with psychological stress. Some people consider this type the same as urge incontinence, but it differs because it is an accidental leak of urine due to bladder muscle contracting, and urgency whereas urge incontinence is a sudden need to urinate which cannot be controlled.
Stress incontinence is more common in women when compared to men. If experiencing this condition, one may be embarrassed or even limit social life, especially exercising and leisure activities. Various treatments can provide relief from urinary incontinence and improve well-being.
This guide helps understand causes, symptoms, and the treatment options available for stress incontinence.
Causes of Stress Incontinence
Incontinence is a result of the weakening of pelvic muscles or other tissues supporting the pelvic floor muscles, and urinary sphincter. The bladder enlarges when it fills with urine. Usually, a valve type muscles in the urethra sphincter stays closed, when the bladder expands with urine, it stops any bladder leaks until you reach the bathroom.
This is what happens in a typical person, but when the muscles weaken, anything that puts pressure on the pelvic and abdominal muscles like lifting, laughing hard, sneezing, bending over can lead to urine leakage.
The causes of the weakening of urinary sphincter and pelvic floor muscles can be:
Prostate Surgery in Men
The most common factor that causes stress incontinence is the surgical removal of the prostate gland. The reason for removal is to treat prostate cancer. The bladder muscles and sphincter muscles weaken as it lies below the prostate area, and is affected due to cancer and surgery.
In women, the most common cause of incontinence is childbirth. The poor performance of muscles may be due to nerve damage during child delivery. Incontinence can begin immediately after delivery or happen years later.
Other factors that contribute to stress incontinence are as follow:
- Excess weight
- Illnesses that lead to chronic sneezing or coughing
- Smoking which could lead to coughing
- Activities like jumping, running for many years
Stress Incontinence Risk Factors
A few factors increase the risk of incontinence, and include:
Incontinence is not a normal part of aging, but physical weakness with aging leads to weakening of muscles and can cause urinary incontinence. It is indirectly related to aging.
Type of Childbirth
Not every woman who has given birth has a risk of incontinence. Women who have undergone vaginal delivery are more prone to experience incontinence when compared to those who had a c-section delivery.
Women who have had vacuum-assisted delivery are at a lower risk of experiencing stress incontinence. On the other hand, those who have had a forceps delivery are more likely to experience incontinence.
People who are overweight are at a higher risk of urinary incontinence. Excess weight puts more pressure on the pelvic, and abdominal muscles, which leads to urine leaks during physical activities.
Pelvic Surgery in The Past
Prostate surgery in men and hysterectomy in women can change the way the bladder and urethra functions and supports. This makes it more likely someone to develop incontinence.
Symptoms of Stress Incontinence
Stress incontinence is the most common type of urinary incontinence, specifically in women who have undergone menopause or childbirth.
The ‘stress’ in stress incontinence refers to physical pressure and has nothing to do with mental stress. It happens when the bladder muscles are unable to control the flow of urine under sudden pressure like lifting weights, laughing, or coughing.
The symptoms of this incontinence are:
- Heavyweight lifting
- Laughing, coughing, or sneezing
- Physical exercise
- Sudden standing up
- Having sex
One may not experience this type of incontinence every time when doing any of the things mentioned above, but notice if the physical activity makes urine loss inevitable.
If the symptoms interfere with your day to day activities, do not hesitate to see a doctor.
Treatments for Stress Incontinence
Your health practitioner may recommend treatment or a combination of therapies to reduce or get rid of incontinence. If the doctor identifies an underlying cause, then you may receive treatment for symptoms.
These therapies eliminate or reduce incontinence episodes.
Pelvic Floor Muscles Exercises
Pelvic muscle exercise is also known as Kegel exercise. The movement strengthens your pelvic floor muscles and sphincter. Your health practitioner will help teach you the right way to do Kegels, and guide you on the number of times you need to do the exercise throughout the day.
Biofeedback is a technique used with Kegel exercises, making them more effective. It includes the use of electrical stimulation to ensure the right muscle contraction.
Healthy Lifestyle Changes
Healthy lifestyle changes may be required to eliminate incontinence. Some important changes include losing excess weight, quitting smoking, and treating of coughs when present. A doctor may recommend the amount and time to intake fluids based on the therapy you are undergoing. Avoiding alcohol and caffeinated drinks will also help.
Your doctor might recommend a schedule for expressing the bladder which is called bladder training. The treatment may require one to control the bladder by scheduling specific visits to the bathroom at specific times, no matter whether the bladder is full or not.
A doctor uses a mix of medications and therapy for some patients to treat urinary incontinence. Remember, nausea is a common side effect of most incontinence drugs. Always start and stop medications as directed by your doctor.
There are some devices developed for women to help control incontinence for example:
Vaginal pessary is a ring-shaped device with two bumps that sit on both sides of the urethra and is fitted in place by your health practitioner. The device helps support the bladder base to prevent leaks during activity.
The removal and cleaning of the device should be done carefully, and your doctor will teach you how best to care for the device.
Urethra inserts are a tampon type disposable device, inserted in the urethra to prevent urine leaks. These are not to be worn throughout the day, and thus, the doctor will guide the patient on the usage of the insert.
Surgery for Stress Incontinence
Surgeries are designed to treat incontinence and give support to the bladder neck. The various surgical interventions include:
- Colposuspension is lifting of the bladder neck, which helps in eliminating stress incontinence.
- An artificial sphincter is inserted in the body to control urine flow from the bladder to the urethra.
- Sling procedure involves the insertion of a mesh under the neck of the bladder to provide extra support to the urethra and stop urine leak.
Your medical provider will explain procedures in detail and help you decide which is best.
Stress Incontinence Frequently Asked Questions
What Causes Stress Incontinence?
The common causes of incontinence in women are pregnancy, childbirth. old age and chronic cough. Many women face this issue, especially those who have undergone pregnancy and childbirth. During childbirth, the pelvic muscles and sphincter stretch and become weak, which leads to incontinence.
How Can Stress Incontinence Be Stopped?
Following these tips will help lessen toilet episodes, and a doctor will suggest the best treatment.
- Daily pelvic floor exercises
- Avoid weight lifting
- Quit smoking
- Drinking enough water every day
- Eating more fiber
- Cut down alcohol and caffeine
Can You Cure Incontinence?
Treatments and therapies are available to reduce the effects of incontinence in day to day life. Stress incontinence can be cured completely, and health practitioners provide guidance to help decide what treatment is best.
Is Urinary Incontinence Curable?
Around 80% of incontinence cases in women are curable, says Peters-gee, Director of Continence Care Program for Women’s Health, Connecticut. The treatment options include – Kegel exercises to strengthen pelvic muscles, electrical stimulation to relieve the injured muscles and biofeedback to record progress.
We hope this guide has helped you learn about the causes, symptoms, and treatments available for stress incontinence. Please let us know have any questions by calling us at 1-833-532-5668 or setting up an appointment with one of our experts.