Stress incontinence refers to the loss of bladder control or leakage that occurs during physical activity or exertion. It may happen while coughing, sneezing, lifting weights or heavy objects, exercising, and performing other strenuous activities. In this article, we discuss the symptoms of stress incontinence, as well as its causes and treatments.
Causes of Stress Incontinence
Symptoms of stress incontinence start to show up when the urethra’s support structures degrade. These structures are connected to the bladder and urethra, which are supported by the muscles of the pelvic floor. The latter gets help from a sphincter between the bladder and urethra, which controls the flow of the patient’s urine. As such, the weakening of either can make it difficult to hold one’s urine.
Physical activities such as heavy lifting, sexual intercourse, and exercise can cause a patient with stress incontinence to urinate. Other activities, such as laughing, sneezing, and coughing, can also put pressure in the patient’s abdomen and trigger stress incontinence.
Several groups of patients are more at risk of developing stress incontinence than others. Generally, the condition is more prevalent in senior citizens, women who have just given birth, and people who are overweight or obese. This is because those conditions are common risk factors for stress incontinence. Taking certain medications or undergoing surgery in the pelvic or prostate area may also lead to stress incontinence.
Symptoms of Stress Incontinence
The symptoms of stress incontinence are easy to identify, with the primary being loss of bladder control during physical activity. This can be as small as the release of a few drops of urine or a larger flow.
There are also severe cases where pressure from an overburdened bladder causes involuntary urination. This typically happens without the patient feeling the need to pee prior.
As such, the symptoms of stress incontinence can lead to emotional and mental distress. Instances of incontinence may lead to embarrassing situations for the patient. For example, involuntarily urinating in public or during sex may feel embarrassing. Because of this, patients with stress incontinence may prefer to self-isolate and not leave their homes. The condition can also cause patients to miss out on social activities and job opportunities or to avoid developing intimate relationships out of fear.
There is also a condition called mixed incontinence. This occurs in individuals that have symptoms of both stress incontinence and an overactive bladder (OAB) or urge incontinence. The condition features the urge to urinate even if the bladder is not full or at capacity.
Treatment for Stress Incontinence
Many doctors suggest certain lifestyle changes to alleviate or treat the symptoms of stress incontinence. Here are some ways to treat the condition:
- Pelvic floor muscle exercises and Kegel exercises
- Avoidance or quitting of smoking
- Bladder training
- Measured fluid intake
- Weight loss exercises
- Urine collecting devices
- Avoidance of bladder irritants
While stress incontinence is not a life endangering condition, it can have extremely negative effects on one’s emotional and mental wellbeing. The telltale symptom of stress incontinence is accidental urination during physical activity. Fortunately, this is treatable with a variety of lifestyle changes and help from a doctor.
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