Don't Make Me Laugh (or Run, Sneeze, Cough!)

Stress incontinence is much more common in women because childbearing often weakens the pelvic muscles. Obesity, smoking, pelvic surgery (including hysterectomy) and menopause are also risk factors. Normally the bladder is held firmly in place by muscles and connective tissue in the pelvis. If these muscles are weak, extra abdominal pressure can push the bladder and urethra (bladder opening) downward, open the urethra, and cause small amounts of urine to spurt out. Stress incontinence can also happen if the sphincter (the muscle surrounding the urethra) is weak or damaged.

Stress incontinence can be cured with exercise, surgery or sometimes a combination of surgery and exercise. Exercises should be done under the guidance of a physical therapist specially trained to treat stress incontinence.  The therapist will develop an exercise plan, based on the person’s individual situation. Appropriate exercises, correctly done, strengthen the muscles of the pelvic floor. Surgery for stress incontinence has become much simpler and more effective than it used to be. It is frequently a “minimally-invasive procedure,” which can be done as an outpatient or “day surgery” procedure. 

No medications are currently approved for treatment of stress incontinence, but several are on the horizon.