Stress Incontinence

Stress incontinence is the most common form of incontinence. It is not related to feeling stressed, but rather occurs when the pelvic floor muscles are not strong enough to prevent urine from leaking, and is most common when the bladder is placed under unusual amounts of stress. This could be anything from coughing and sneezing to laughing, doing heavy lifting, or when exercising. Women who have given birth, or who have gone through the menopause, are particularly vulnerable to stress incontinence. Obesity or constipation can also increase the pressure upon the bladder, therefore increasing the likelihood of suffering from stress incontinence.

Stress incontinence can often be prevented or treated by performing pelvic floor exercises. These consist in lifting and tightening the pelvic floor muscles in sets of eight contractions, which should be performed three times daily. This should strengthen the muscles of the bladder so that they are less likely to allow urine to leak out, and after three months most people will find the symptoms of stress incontinence greatly improved. However, if this is not the case, there are other forms of treatment available, including surgery to lift the neck of the bladder, or bladder Botox injections. Men who suffer from stress incontinence may be given the option to receive an artificial sphincter, which controls the flow of urine via a pump placed in the scrotum. 

Stress incontinence is more common in the elderly, as the muscles of the bladder weaken with age. In addition to this, women who have been through the menopause often find their pelvic floor muscles have been weakened by a reduction in oestrogen levels – however, this can sometimes be helped by application of a vaginal oestrogen cream.