Stress incontinence occurs when the muscles and other tissues that support the bladder (pelvic floor muscles) and the muscles that regulate the release of urine (urinary sphincter) weaken.
The bladder expands as it fills with urine. Normally, valve-like muscles in the urethra — the short tube that carries urine out of your body — stay closed as the bladder expands, preventing urine leakage until you reach a bathroom. But when those muscles weaken, anything that exerts force on the abdominal and pelvic muscles — sneezing, bending over, lifting, laughing hard, for instance — can put pressure on your bladder and cause urine leakage.
Your pelvic floor muscles and urinary sphincter may lose strength because of:
- Childbirth. In women, poor function of pelvic floor muscles or the sphincter may occur because of tissue or nerve damage during delivery of a child. Stress incontinence from this damage may begin soon after delivery or occur years later.
- Prostate surgery. In men, the most common factor leading to stress incontinence is the surgical removal of the prostate gland (prostatectomy) to treat prostate cancer. Because the sphincter lies directly below the prostate gland and encircles the urethra, a prostatectomy may result in a weakened sphincter.
Other factors that may worsen stress incontinence include:
Sep. 16, 2014
- Illnesses that cause chronic coughing or sneezing
- Smoking, which can cause frequent coughing
- Excess consumption of caffeine or alcohol
- High-impact activities over many years
- Hormonal deficiency
- Clemens JQ. Urinary incontinence in men. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed May 23, 2014.
- DuBeau CE. Approach to women with urinary incontinence. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed May 23, 2014.
- DuBeau CE. Epidemiology, risk factors, and pathogenesis of urinary incontinence. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed May 23, 2014.
- DuBeau CE. Treatment and prevention of urinary incontinence in women. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed May 23, 2014.
- Urinary incontinence fact sheet. WomensHealth.gov. http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/urinary-incontinence.html. Accessed May 23, 2014.
- Urinary incontinence in women. National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse. http://kidney.niddk.nih.gov/KUDiseases/pubs/uiwomen/index.aspx. Accessed May 23, 2014.
- Non-surgical treatments for female stress urinary incontinence. National Association For Continence. http://www.nafc.org/index.php?page=non-surgical-treatment-for-female-stress-urinary-incontinence. Accessed June 9, 2014.
- Urinary incontinence in men. National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse. http://kidney.niddk.nih.gov/kudiseases/pubs/uimen/index.aspx. Accessed May 23, 2014.
- Frequently asked questions. Gynecological problems FAQ081. Urinary incontinence. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. http://www.acog.org/~/media/For%20Patients/faq081.pdf?dmc=1&ts=20121218T1703471630. Accessed May 23, 2014.
- Stress urinary incontinence (SUI). U.S. Food and Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/MedicalDevices/ProductsandMedicalProcedures/ImplantsandProsthetics/UroGynSurgicalMesh/ucm284109.htm. Accessed May 23, 2014.
- Frequently asked questions. Special procedures FAQ166. Surgery for stress urinary incontinence. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. http://www.acog.org/~/media/For%20Patients/faq166.pdf?dmc=1&ts=20130102T2043435319. Accessed May 23, 2014.
- Hayder D. The effects of urinary incontinence on sexuality: Seeking an intimate partnership. Journal of Wound, Ostomy, and Continence Nursing. 2012;39:539.
- Petrou SP (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Jacksonville, Fla. Jan. 28, 2013.
- Lightner DJ (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Jan. 21, 2013.
- Flesh G. Urodynamic evaluation of women with incontinence. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed June 8, 2014.
- Golden AK. Decision Support System. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. May 23, 2014.
- Bladder control loss and travel. National Association For Continence. http://www.nafc.org/library/articles/bladder-control-loss-and-travel/. Accessed June 9, 2014.
- Castle EP (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. July 7, 2014.
You Are ... The Campaign for Mayo Clinic
Mayo Clinic is a not-for-profit organization. Make a difference today.