Stress Urinary Incontinence
Stress urinary incontinence (SUI) is defined as a sudden loss of urine during normal day to day activities. It is also commonly referred to as bladder weakness and weak bladder. If you have this problem you may notice leakage if you laugh, cough, sneeze, walk, exercise, or lift something.
It is extremely common and there are approximately 9 million people in the UK experiencing some form of stress incontinence. It can affect women and men of all ages, although it is more common among women. It is estimated that approximately one third of women in the UK have a weak bladder.
Many people with a weak bladder can be helped and in some cases can be cured completely.
A weak bladder usually occurs when the muscles in the pelvic floor or sphincter have been damaged or weakened.
What causes a weak bladder?
Both men and women have a pelvic floor. It is made up of layers of muscles which hold the bladder and bowel in place and help to stop leaks. The sphincter is a circular muscle that goes around the urethra (the tube that urine comes out of) and squeezes as the bladder fills up to create a seal so that urine can't leak out.
In women, these muscles can be weakened during pregnancy by the extra weight and natural hormonal changes. Childbirth can cause more problems especially if delivery is prolonged or the baby is large. Forceps and ventouse assisted deliveries may increase the risk of damage, muscle tearing or episiotomies (where the muscle is cut to allow an easier birth) can cause further damage. Pelvic floor exercises can help with these problems.
Some women develop stress urinary incontinence after the menopause. This is because the pelvic floor becomes weaker. Even before the menopause, some women may notice that they have a weaker bladder than nornal in the week before a period. It is thought that stress incontinence may occur after a hysterectomy and also after operations on the bladder.
People who have been constipated for a long time or have a cough may also be prone to stress incontinence. Men can develop stress incontinence after a prostate problem.
If you are concerned about your problem and it is starting to affect your day to day life make an appointment to see your doctor, continence nurse or specialist physiotherapist. A continence nurse and specialist physiotherapist are healthcare professionals who specialise in bladder and bowel problems.
You can also call our helpline on 0845 345 0165 (24 hour answerphone) for medical advice, or visit our Continence Clinic Database facility in the Specialist Services section to find out where your nearest clinic is or call our general enquiries line on 01536 533255 for details.
Please use the link boxes below to find out about treatment and product options to help you manage your symptoms.
Last updated: 22/03/2013
Stress Urinary Incontinence
Info and Advice