Stress Urinary Incontinence or SUI occurs when a sudden action such as sneezing, coughing or exercising results in the leaking of a small amount of urine due to pressure on the urethra or bladder. It’s the most common kind of incontinence and can lead to a feeling of social isolation due to the repeated occurrence of uncomfortable and embarrassing situations, however, having a better understanding of the disorder can be immensely helpful to reduce the chances of future leakage incidents. Onlymyhealth editorial team spoke to Dr. Dilip Dhanpal, Consultant Urologist, Uro Oncologist and Transplant Surgeon, Apollo Spectra Hospital, Bangalore, to know about causes of urinary incontinence in women due to stress.
Major Causes Of Stress Urinary Incontinence In Women
Many things can go wrong with the complicated and complex system that controls our urination. This exact type of problem designates incontinence.. If urine happens to leak out when you make sudden actions such as jumping, coughing, sneezing, then you may have stress incontinence. Below is a list of major causes that could lead to SUI:
1. Weak tissues
It commonly occurs when the tissues and other muscles which support the urethra as well as the tissues that regulate the release of urine weaken. Consequently, any sudden action that drives force towards the pelvic and abdominal muscles — coughing, sneezing, laughing, etc. — can pressurize the bladder and lead to urine leakage.
2. Physical changes
Physical changes due to age, such as the natural weakening of muscles and tissues, can make a person more susceptible to developing stress incontinence. However, stress incontinence at an occasional level can happen at any age. Approximately 13% of women between the ages of 19 to 44 years will develop SUI, while 22% of women between the ages of 45 and 64 actually have the condition.
Those who are obese or overweight have a higher chance of encountering stress incontinence. It mainly occurs because excess weight increases pressure on the pelvic and abdominal muscles.
4. Previous pelvic surgeries
Previous pelvic surgeries such as hysterectomy can weaken the muscles that control the bladder and urethra, thus, further increasing the chances of stress incontinence in the future.
5. Low estrogen levels
Research suggests that estrogen levels drop in the course of the menstrual cycle, and can potentially weaken the urethra. Hence, in the case of some women, they only feel the symptoms of stress incontinence a week before they get their period.
Stress incontinence is 8% higher in women who have given birth as opposed to those who haven’t, especially in the case of those women who’ve had a forceps or vaginal delivery in the past. Moreover, damage to the tissues or nerves during the delivery of a child can cause the pelvic floor muscles or the sphincter to weaken. Hence, SUI may begin soon after incurring such damage or many years after the operation.
7. Certain conditions
Certain conditions such as chronic coughing, chronic constipation or genetically inherited factors can also cause the development of SUI.
Despite its occurrence and uncomfortable effects, Stress Urinary Incontinence is a disorder that can be treated with the help of methods based on the severity of the situation. With the help of behavioral therapy, one can bring changes to their lifestyle so as to reduce the risk of stress incontinence, for example, by avoiding activities that lead to leakage or by losing excess weight.
Pelvic muscle training also serves as a viable option, as it can help treat SUI with the help of kegel exercises that strengthen the sphincter and pelvic muscles. Ultimately, one could also consider medical interventions in severe cases which may include vaginal repairs and other alternative procedures such as lifting the bladder and urethra. Hence, it’s necessary to visit the doctor to diagnose the severity of the condition based on the symptoms experienced.
(With inputs from Dr. Dilip Dhanpal, Consultant Urologist, Uro Oncologist and Transplant Surgeon, Apollo Spectra Hospital, Bangalore)