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Stress Urinary Incontinence in Women (SUI)

You’re not alone if you experience problems like urine leakage when you exercise, sneeze, or laugh. In fact, 1 in 3 adult women have stress urinary incontinence (SUI), which is the most common type of bladder control problem among women. SUI, however, is not just a normal part of aging. Even though you may feel too embarrassed to talk to your doctor, you may have a common, treatable problem. The “stress” is added pressure on your bladder. Women with SUI have weak pelvic muscles that can allow the involuntary loss of urine to leak with a simple cough, sneeze, laugh, or other action puts pressure on the bladder.

Causes of SUI

While stress urinary incontinence is more common as women age, it is not caused simply by aging. A number of factors put a woman at risk for SUI, including:

  • Pregnancy and childbirth, which can stretch, weaken, or even damage pelvic floor muscles
  • Neurological conditions that cause damage to the nerves including multiple sclerosis, spina bifida and spinal cord injuries
  • Obesity
  • Chronic cough, oftentimes caused by smoking
  • Certain medications, excessive alcohol consumption and caffeine
  • Menopause, due to decreased hormones
  • Pelvic surgery or radiation treatment


The best way to find a solution to your urinary incontinence problem is to speak to a specialist. As a first step to diagnosing your bladder control problem, your physician will take a comprehensive medical history and perform a physical evaluation to accurately diagnose the condition to prescribe the best treatment option for you. Your doctor may also order additional tests, including urinalysis, blood work, or they may ask you to keep a bladder diary (a record of what you drink, your urine output, and when leakage occurs and what you were doing at the time.)

Specialized diagnostic tests may include:

  • Pelvic ultrasound – This painless test checks for abnormalities in the bladder, urinary tract, or genitals.
  • Stress test – This test looks for leaking urine when you cough, laugh, or put other types of pressure on your bladder.
  • Postvoid residual test (PVR) – This can determine how well you empty your bladder by measuring residual urine after voiding using a thin tube (catheter) passed through your urethra into the bladder. By measuring residual urine, your doctor can determine if there may be a blockage or nerve or muscle problem.
  • Cystoscopy – A tiny instrument called a cystoscope is inserted into the urethra during this test to find and/or remove abnormalities. This procedure can be performed in a ambulatory surgery center.
  • Cystogram – A special X-ray of your bladder taken while filling and evacuating
  • Urodynamic tests – Diagnostic tests that evaluate the function of the bladder and urethra and include Uroflow, cystometrogram, EMG, pressure flow study, or videourodynamics

Symptoms Of Stress Urinary Incontinence

Common symptoms of SUI in women include:

  • Urine leaks when you cough, laugh, sneeze, exercise, lift heavy objects, etc.
  • Urine leakage worsens when your bladder is full

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, contact one of our incontinence specialists who understands your condition and the treatments available to help get you back to feeling like yourself again.