Stress Urinary Incontinence
There are different types of urine incontinence. Two common types are urge incontinence and stress incontinence. Both conditions affect a person’s quality of life. Depending on the condition causing these issues, treatments may be similar. It’s possible to have “mixed incontinence”, where you experience a combination of both urge incontinence and stress incontinence symptoms.
Let’s clarify the difference between urge incontinence and stress incontinence.
What is Stress Urinary Incontinence
Stress urinary incontinence (SUI), sometimes referred to as genuine stress incontinence, is when urine leaks abruptly because of extra pressure on the abdomen. To release urine, the bladder must contract and the pelvic floor muscles and sphincters need to relax. With SUI, the sphincters can’t hold added pressure and they relax before it’s time to urinate. It can be a problem related to the bladder muscles, pelvic floor muscles and/or sphincters.
Many activities can cause added abdominal pressure. For example, coughing, laughing, sneezing, lifting, jumping and other types of physical activity. This added pressure can trigger urine leakage if the pelvic floor muscles are not strong enough.
Although the condition has the word “stress” in it, it is not related to psychological stress. “Stress” in this case refers to the physical strain on the abdomen itself. Those who experience stress incontinence do not necessarily feel the sudden urgency to urinate.SUI is a condition that often coexists with pelvic organ prolapse (POP). POP is a common health issue for vulva owners (cystocele prolapse being the most common type). There are also cases where SUI may become more prevalent when the prolapse is corrected (through POP reduction). When this occurs, it is called occult SUI.
What causes SUI?
Stress incontinence occurs when the pelvic floor muscles supporting the bladder and/or urethral sphincter are compromised. When these muscles become weakened, movements that put pressure on the bladder can cause urine to squeeze out involuntarily. As such, common stress urinary incontinence causes are life events that stretch or damage pelvic floor muscles. For example, pregnancy and childbirth. SUI is also linked to obesity, as excess body weight increases abdominal pressure.
What is NOT SUI?
The condition of SUI is not the same as UTI (urinary tract infection), also known as a bladder infection. UTI is a condition that occurs when bacteria enters the urinary system through the urethra and multiplies in the bladder. These types of infections are more common among vulva-owners because the passageway from the bladder to the outside of the body is shorter, allowing easier access. If you have a UTI, you will likely experience a frequent urge to urinate (even after you’ve just emptied your bladder). You may also feel a burning sensation or pain during urination. Usually, UTIs are not chronic and can be easily treated with medication.
Stress urinary incontinence treatment
Treatment for SUI will depend on specific symptoms and their severity. Ask your doctor about which methods of treatment are best suited for you. In some cases, simple behaviour or lifestyle changes can help. This could be managing fluid intake, losing weight, or avoiding food that irritates the bladder. Pelvic floor exercises, like kegels, are also an effective way to recover from SUI and prevent it from recurring. When pelvic floor exercises are not enough, surgical options may be recommended.