You sneeze or your friend makes you laugh the way that only she can, and you leak a little urine. It can be a common occurrence for some and is called stress urinary incontinence (SUI). The first time it happens, it may surprise and embarrass you. However, it is nothing to be stressed about. It can be treated.
It happens when urine leaks out of the bladder due to an increase in abdominal pressure. When that pressure reaches the point where your urethra, the opening in your bladder, cannot keep urine from exiting the bladder and you experience a small leak. Once the pressure reduces, your urethra stops the flow of urine. It is usually a small amount. The increase in abdominal pressure can be caused by:
It is important to note that only a small amount of urine leaks out. If your bladder is completely voiding, you are experiencing a different incontinence issue. But that doesn’t mean SUI is any less invasive to your quality of life. It is not normal, and there are ways to treat SUI and improve your life.
A couple of main issues typically causing weakening of the urethra include:
- Loss of strength in the pelvic floor muscles – the muscles you squeeze when trying to keep urine from passing.
- Loss of strength of the connective tissue, which supports the urethra and lower bladder – the connective tissue that keeps the urethra and bladder in the correct position.
Many different factors can cause SUI. It’s most common for mothers because the bladder muscles and the muscles surrounding the bladder can become weakened during pregnancy and delivery. Men may develop an SUI after prostate or different bladder surgeries, and obesity can increases the risk of leakage for both men and women.
Other risk factors for stress urinary incontinence include:
- Chronic constipation
- Chronic pain in the pelvis or lower back
- Drinks with caffeine and carbonation
- Medical conditions and certain medications
- Pelvic organ prolapse
- Surgery – pelvic or lower back
- Tobacco products
What can you do?
Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to discuss your condition with your health care providers, talking can lead to a solution.
There are preventative strategies. In some cases, you might need the help of exercise or physical therapists. Strategies include:
- Adding core strength training
- Avoiding unnecessary strain on your pelvic floor muscles, i.e., constipation, chronic cough, improper lifting
- Consulting a therapist for pelvic floor therapy
- Establishing a regular bathroom routine
- Strengthening your pelvic floor muscles with Kegel exercises
Other treatment options may include medication to relieve the incontinence. There is a new medication covered by Medicare that doesn’t have the negative side-effects of earlier options. Additionally, there are electro-stimulation devices that can help distract the bladder and reduce the urgency to urinate.
In some cases, SUI can be severe and require corrective surgery.
Talk to your doctor about different options. You should not let SUI cause you to miss activities or otherwise alter your life. It can be treated. There are several treatment options available, however, before deciding on a treatment option you should know all the risks and benefits.