What is Stress Urinary Incontinence?
Stress Urinary Incontinence (SUI) is a common medical condition that involves the involuntary loss of urine that occurs when pressure on the bladder is increased during physical movement of the body.
How do I know if I have SUI?
When you leak urine involuntarily, whether loss of only drops to tablespoons or more, this is SUI. If it is mild incontinence, you will have light leakage during rigorous activity such as playing sports or exercising, or when you sneeze, laugh, cough, or lift something. If it is moderate or more severe incontinence, you will leak urine even with low impact movement such as standing up, walking, or bending over.
How is SUI different from Urge Incontinence, or Overactive Bladder (OAB)?
SUI is different from Overactive Bladder (OAB, also known as Urge Incontinence), which is the strong, sudden urge to urinate at unexpected times, such as during sleep, while SUI is leakage. (This fact sheet does not pertain to OAB.)
How common is SUI?
Estimates of the number of women experiencing SUI vary widely because there is no one definition of the condition. However, urinary leakage is a common medical condition occurring in about one out of every three women at some time in their lives. Among these women, about six in ten have both SUI and OAB. Of this group, about one in three have SUI. Approximately one-third of women age 30 to age 60, and one-third of women under the age of 30, experience urinary incontinence.
How did I get SUI?
SUI is more common among older women, but is not caused simply by aging. It occurs in younger, active, healthy women as well. Caucasian or Hispanic race, being obese, smoking, and chronic cough (which places frequent strain on the pelvic floor muscles that can, in turn, cause bladder leakage) are risk factors for development of SUI. Pregnancy and childbirth increase the chances of SUI because they may stretch, weaken, or damage the pelvic floor muscles, resulting in bladder leakage. Nerve injuries to the lower back and pelvic surgery are also potential causes of SUI because they weaken the pelvic floor muscles.
Why does it matter if I have SUI?
SUI can interfere with your life and day-to-day decisions about your social activities. You may be embarrassed by your body and feel you can't talk about urinary leakage to your friends and loved ones. SUI can affect the relationship with your partner, especially because you may be embarrassed about having sex. This can lead to feeling isolated and even hopeless.
To know if SUI is a problem for you, ask yourself: Is SUI limiting my daily activities? Have I stopped playing sports? Have I stopped other recreational activities or changed my lifestyle in any way because I'm afraid of urine leakage? Have I become uncomfortable with myself and my body? Am I avoiding sex because I am worried that I may leak urine and be embarrassed? If any of your answers are yes, you need to know that there is hope and there are options to help you better manage and treat SUI.