There is one symptom of stress urinary incontinence, and that is urine leakage, usually of a low to moderate volume. This is the result of a sudden increase in intra-abdominal pressure or strain on the bladder due to coughing, laughing, sneezing, lifting or bending. Stress urinary incompetence increases with age but is not itself a consequence of aging.
There are four types of urinary incontinence: stress, urge, mixed and overflow. Stress urinary incontinence is often the result of vaginal childbirth or age-related changes such as atrophic urethritis, which weakens the pelvic floor muscles. The other three types are most often the side effects of the treatment of cancer.
There are millions of women suffering from stress urinary incontinence. Many are too ashamed to admit the condition even to their doctors and so the condition often goes untreated. It can affect women as young as those in their mid-20s, older women with varying frequency, and men who have undergone surgery and suffered from some kind of sphincter damage. Men are not likely to suffer from stress urinary incontinence because of the difference in their urinary tract make-up.
The most common treatment for stress urinary incontinence is pelvic floor or Kegel exercises, particularly if the condition has not become chronic. Pelvic floor muscles support the uterus, bowel and bladder and form a muscular sling. Unique to women, strong pelvic muscles lead to bladder control and better orgasms, and also prevent a prolapsed bowel. Alternatively squeezing and relaxing these muscles throughout the day should improve or cure stress urinary incontinence. There are also minor vaginal surgery procedures that can be performed.
The best results occur when Kegel exercises are done as soon as possible after giving birth. Nearly one third of pregnant women suffer from stress urinary incontinence during their last month of pregnancy. Weak pelvic muscles can be improved through Kegel exercises, but these need to be performed on a constant basis. Stopping the exercises too soon undoes any progress, and the incontinence may return.
Other groups sensitive to urinary incontinence are those suffering from diabetes and obesity. Behavioral changes such as quitting smoking, which reduces coughing; cutting down on alcohol and caffeine, which both overstimulate the bladder; and avoiding spicy foods and citrus, which can irritate the bladder may also be tried in an effort to control the condition. Decreasing excessive fluid intake and urinating more frequently may also reduce the incidence of urine leakage.