Urinary Incontinence

Do you sometimes leak urine, such as when you lift something heavy? If so, your doctor may have told you that you have stress urinary incontinence (SUI). You are not alone. Urine leakage can be embarrassing. And it may keep you from being active. But know that SUI can be treated.

What is Incontinence?

Incontinence is the involuntary loss of urine. This means you may have problems storing urine or releasing it fully. The incontinence may be temporary or long term. Causes include infection, blockage of the urethra or bladder opening, sphincter problems, or damage to muscles or nerves in the bladder or urethra.

The Symptoms of SUI

If you have SUI, you may leak urine when you put physical stress (pressure) on the bladder. (However, feeling “stressed out” will not cause SUI.) This problem may happen when you:

  • Lift something heavy
  • Exercise
  • Cough, sneeze, or laugh
  • Get up from a bed or chair

Types of Incontinence

Short-term causes of all types of incontinence include medication side effects, infection, surgery, or mobility problems. Incontinence due to nerve or muscle damage may be longer term. The three most common types of incontinence are described below.

Stress Incontinence

If you have stress incontinence, urine leaks out of the bladder during activity. Stress incontinence may occur temporarily after prostate surgery. It may also occur because the sphincter muscle is weak. Symptoms of stress incontinence include leakage when you cough, sneeze, laugh, or lift something heavy.

Urge Incontinence

If you have incontinence, your bladder feels full and pushes urine out, even when it’s almost empty. An infection in your urinary tract, a nerve problem, surgery, or a growth in the bladder may be the cause. The main symptom is a frequent, sudden, uncontrollable urge to urinate.

Overflow Incontinence

If you have overflow Incontinence, the bladder can’t empty, becomes overfull, and begins to leak frequent, small amounts. It may happen if something (such as an enlarged prostate) blocks the bladder opening or the urethra, or if nerve or muscle problems keep the bladder from contracting. You may need to urinate often, and your urine may trickle instead of flowing freely.