Stress urinary incontinence is caused by weakened pelvic floor muscles or a weakened urethral sphincter leading to urine leaks whenever there is sudden physical pressure applied to the abdomen or bladder. This type of urinary incontinence causes sudden spurts of leaked urine when someone coughs, laughs, or sneezes, or with straining and exertion. Unlike other types of urinary incontinence, this condition is more likely to affect young and middle-aged women. However, it is difficult to estimate the number of people with urinary incontinence due to underreporting. More than half of women affected by stress urinary incontinence fail to seek medical help because of social stigma.
Risk factors for stress urinary incontinence include:
- estrogen deficiency
- pelvic radiation
- pregnancy and childbirth
- surgery (e.g., surgical removal of uterus [hysterectomy] or prostate gland [prostatectomy])
- vaginal or uterine prolapse
Stress urinary incontinence does not commonly affect men but can occur following prostate surgery.