Stress incontinence

Urinary incontinence is the unintentional loss of urine. Stress incontinence happens when physical movement or activity — such as coughing, sneezing, running or heavy lifting — puts pressure (stress) on your bladder. Stress incontinence is not related to psychological stress.

Stress incontinence differs from urge incontinence, which is the unintentional loss of urine caused by the bladder muscle contracting, usually associated with a sense of urgency. Stress incontinence is much more common in women than men.

If you have stress incontinence, you may feel embarrassed, isolate yourself, or limit your work and social life, especially exercise and leisure activities. With treatment, you'll likely be able to manage stress incontinence and improve your overall well-being.

Symptoms Causes Risk factors Complications

If you have stress incontinence, you may experience urine leakage when you:

  • Cough
  • Sneeze
  • Laugh
  • Stand up
  • Get out of a car
  • Lift something heavy
  • Exercise
  • Have sex

You may not experience incontinence every time you do one of these things, but any pressure-increasing activity can make you more vulnerable to unintentional urine loss, particularly when your bladder is full.

When to see a doctor

Talk to your doctor if your symptoms interfere with daily activities, such as work, hobbies and social life.

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