Stress incontinence is the unintentional or uncontrollable leakage of urine. It is a serious and embarrassing disorder, which can lead to social isolation. Stress incontinence typically occurs when certain kinds of physical movement puts pressure on your bladder. Laughing, sneezing, coughing, jumping, vigorous exercise, and heavy lifting can all cause stress incontinence. Any pressure placed on the abdomen and bladder can lead to the loss of urine. It’s important to remember that the term “stress” is used in a strictly physical sense when describing stress incontinence. Emotional stress is not a factor in this type of urinary disorder. The “stress” refers to excessive pressure on the bladder. Both men and women can have episodes of stress incontinence. However, according to the National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NKUDIC), women are twice as likely as men to suffer from involuntary leakage (NKUDIC). The most common causes of stress incontinence among women are pregnancy and childbirth (particularly multiple vaginal deliveries.) During pregnancy and birth, the sphincter and pelvic muscles are stretched out and are weakened.
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Treatment for stress incontinence varies according to the underlying cause of your problem. Behavioral Therapy Behavioral therapy means changing the way you live to reduce the episodes of stress incontinence. If you are obese, your doctor may advise you to lose weight. You might also try to avoid the activities, such as jumping or jogging, that cause leakage. If you are a smoker, you should quit since nicotine can irritate the bladder and may contribute to your problem. You should also avoid caffeine and alcohol, because these beverages are bladder irritants. You might want to cut back on your overall fluid intake to reduce bladder pressure. The constant cough seen in smokers also contributes to the problem of stress incontinence. Pelvic Muscle Training For many women, pelvic muscle training (pelvic floor muscle exercises) can help treat stress incontinence. Kegel exercises make your sphincter and pelvic muscles stronger. To perform a Kegel, contract the muscles you use to stop the stream of urine when you urinate.