african american woman sneezing, stress urinary incontinence

The Facts About Stress Urinary Incontinence

Stress urinary incontinence, or SUI, is an inconvenient and embarrassing condition that can affect your life in a number of ways. Fortunately, effective treatment for stress incontinence is available.

What Is SUI?

Stress urinary incontinence is a condition that occurs when physical activity causes the bladder to leak urine. For example, if you have SUI, urine may leak when you sneeze or when you lift a heavy object.

Why It Happens

Two sets of muscles control the passage of urine: the pelvic floor muscles and the sphincter. The pelvic floor muscles support the urethra and bladder whereas the sphincter prevents urine from leaking by sealing off the opening of the bladder. If either set of muscles stops working like it should or becomes weak, SUI may occur.

Risk Factors

You may be more likely to develop SUI if you have any of the following risk factors:

  1. History of childbirth, especially vaginal delivery
  2. Exposure to certain medications
  3. History of surgery to the prostate or pelvic area
  4. Injury to the urethra or surrounding area
  5. Pelvic prolapse
  6. Certain diseases of the central nervous system
  7. Chronic constipation
  8. Urinary tract infection


The primary symptom of SUI is the unwanted leakage of urine. Leakage may occur when you:

  1. Sneeze
  2. Cough
  3. Lift something heavy
  4. Stand
  5. Have sexual intercourse
  6. Exercise

Diagnosing SUI

To diagnose SUI, your doctor may perform a physical exam, ask about your symptoms and/or order various tests. Tests that may be ordered when SUI is suspected include X-rays of the kidneys, urodynamic studies, a urinary stress test, urinalysis, pelvic ultrasound and cystoscopy. Based on the results of these tests, your doctor will recommend various treatment options.

Treatment Options

Depending on the specifics of your condition, you may benefit from one of the following treatments:

  1. Strengthening the pelvic floor muscles. You can strengthen the muscles that control the passage of urine by performing Kegel exercises and utilizing biofeedback.
  2. Medication. Certain medications, such as anticholinergics, may reduce the symptoms of SUI.
  3. Behavioral changes. In some cases, behavioral changes may help with SUI. Examples include reducing your fluid intake, losing weight and not holding your urine.
  4. Surgery. In cases where other treatments cannot effectively eliminate the symptoms of SUI, surgical procedures may be an option.

If you are experiencing symptoms of SUI, the expert urologists at Georgia Urology can help. Schedule an appointment today.