Stress Incontinence: What Is It and What Causes It?

stress incontinence

There are various different types and degrees of incontinence, or the unintentional leakage of urine. But the most common type of incontinence in women – and one of the most common types of incontinence overall – is stress incontinence. Stress incontinence occurs when a small amount of urine escapes during an activity that places pressure on the bladder like coughing, sneezing or lifting. 

Here’s a closer look at stress incontinence, what causes it and more.

What Causes It?

There are various things that can cause or lead to stress incontinence, but perhaps the most common is changes to the body – specifically that of a woman. As we noted, stress incontinence is the most common type of incontinence in women, largely because things like childbirth, menopause and menstruation have a tendency to impact the muscles around the bladder. And when the muscles around the bladder are weakened, urine is more likely to leak.

Other factors that may cause stress incontinence include smoking, obesity and chronic coughing.

How to Treat It

Most cases of stress incontinence are correctable or, at the very worst, manageable. Here’s a look at some ways to manage and treat stress incontinence:

  • Kegel exercises: These types of exercises are designed to strengthen the muscles that support the bladder, thereby either leading to a reduction or elimination in leakage. Kegel exercises, or pelvic floor muscles as they’re also commonly referred to as, are simple to do and consist of working to contract the pelvic floor muscles in several sets per day.
  • Losing weight: Obesity is identified as a contributing factor to stress incontinence because excess weight puts excess pressure on the bladder muscles, thereby potentially leading to leakage. Hence, losing weight can help reduce or end symptoms.
  • Time your bathroom breaks: Record when you use the bathroom, as well as instances where urine leakage occurs, to get a better idea of when you’re experiencing incontinence. Based on this data, you can then ensure that you’re using the restroom at proper intervals to avoid leakage.
  • Bladder training: This consists of delaying bathroom breaks as a means of training and building up your bladder over time. By just waiting a little bit longer before you go each time, you’re training the bladder and strengthening its muscles.
  • Surgery: More of a last-ditch option for when all else fails, surgery has also proven to correct stress incontinence. The three most common types of surgery involved to treat stress incontinence are retropubic suspension, the sling procedure and artificial sphincters.

There are ways to manage stress incontinence as well, perhaps the most common of which includes wearing incontinence briefs or incontinence panties. Not to be confused with adult diapers, incontinence underwear is discreet, comfortable and washable. What’s more is that it’s also effective.

The bottom line is that just because you experience stress incontinence doesn’t mean that you can’t live the life you deserve. It just may take a bit of time and an extra bit of effort to correct or manage it.

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