Stress incontinence is a common condition involving an involuntary loss of urine that occurs when a physical movement places pressure or stress on the bladder. Patients with this condition may experience a leakage of urine while coughing, sneezing, laughing, jogging or lifting something heavy. This condition usually occurs as a result of weakened sphincter and pelvic muscles that cannot adequately support the bladder or urethra.
Causes of Stress Incontinence
While stress incontinence can affect men and women of all ages, it is most common in women who have had multiple pregnancies, as childbirth tends to stretch the urethral sphincter. Others risks for stress incontinence may include:
- Frequent urinary tract infections
- Recent surgery
Smokers with a chronic cough may also suffer from stress incontinence as a chronic cough may damage the muscles of the pelvic floor. Smoking is also considered a bladder irritant.
Treatment of Stress Incontinence
Treatment for stress incontinence depends on the severity of the condition, and may include behavioral changes, medical treatment, pelvic floor muscle exercises or surgery. Most patients can benefit from simple behavioral changes which may include:
- Decreasing excessive fluid intake
- Urinating more frequently
- Quitting smoking
- Avoiding alcohol and caffeine
- Losing weight.
- Kegel exercises
Surgery may be performed in cases where the specific cause of incontinence is identified, and may include:
- Anterior vaginal repair to correct prolapse in which the bladder has fallen into the vagina
- Collagen injections to thicken the area around the urethra
- Vaginal sling procedures that surgically place a piece of synthetic mesh as a support for the urethra
A doctor will determine the most effective treatment plan for each patient's individual condition. Most patients can achieve significant symptom improvement from a combination of treatments.