Stress Incontinence

Stress incontinence is the inability to control the release of urine when pressure on the abdominal muscles increases. This can occur when a person laughs, coughs, sneezes, lifts a heavy object, or jogs.

Increased pressure on the top of the bladder created by one of these actions forces urine past the valve that normally keeps urine in the bladder. This results in leakage. Causes of stress incontinence include changes in the nerves and muscles that control the release of urine.

Stress incontinence is the most common form of urinary incontinence in women. Multiple childbirths, aging, or being overweight may cause changes in the pelvic muscles and supportive structures that lead to stress incontinence. It may also occur in men, especially those who have had prostate surgery.

Stress incontinence often responds well to home treatment. Kegel exercises are especially helpful for many people. These exercises are basically repeated squeezing of the muscles used to stop urinating. Medicines, pessaries, or surgery are sometimes required. (A pessary is a rubber device that is placed in the vagina to help support the uterus, which may be pressing on the bladder.)

Last Revised: September 11, 2012

Author: Healthwise Staff

Medical Review: E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Avery L. Seifert, MD - Urology

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