SUI is the loss of urine that occurs during a physical exertion, pushing urine out of the bladder. Activities such as coughing, sneezing, laughing or exercise cause increased pressure in the bladder resulting in incontinence.
SUI is extremely common, affecting 1 in 3 women over 45 years. SUI most commonly develops from changes that happen during pregnancy or childbirth, weakening the support to the urethra. Other causes are obesity, aging, chronic cough, smoking, heavy weight-lifting and genetics.
The normal bladder is a balloon-like sack of muscle which expands as urine flows into it. Sudden, unexpected pressure caused by “stress” activity pushes the urine out of the urethra, the tube that carries urine out of the body.
This unintentional leakage of urine can vary from mild to severe depending on the degree of the problem. Sometimes women limit their physical or social activity level to avoid leaking and embarrassment. SUI does not have to be tolerated, it is a very treatable condition!
Not all incontinence is due to SUI, there are other types of leakage. A description of when and how often you leak is helpful. You may be asked to keep a bladder diary to record the episodes.
A physical exam will also be performed to evaluate the type of leakage you are having. You may be asked to cough with a full bladder. Other tests that might be performed include:
There are many treatment plans for SUI, the ideal one for you depends on your individual symptoms and the effect on your quality of life. Treatments range from lifestyle changes and exercises to surgical cures.
Lifestyle changes that can help improve SUI include:
A pessary is a silicone device inserted into the vagina, similar to a diaphragm. You will need to be custom fit for a pessary, but with correct fit, the pessary pushes the urethra closed helping control urine outflow. It can be used all the time or only when needed such as during exercise.
A pessary still allows you to urinate normally when you need to.
SUI may be improved with the injection of a substance to “bulk up” the urethra. This treatment can be helpful if your urethral sphincter (the muscle surrounding it) is weakened. Your doctor will be able to evaluate if you are a candidate for this procedure. This procedure is usually done in the office and typically lasts for several to many months. Most women need 1-3 injections per year.
Surgery for SUI involved addressing the weakened supportive muscles and tissues surrounding the urethra. There are different surgeries for SUI including urethral suspensions and midurethral slings. Surgery is usually very successful and often low risk. However not all women are candidates for surgery.
SUI is very common but not normal. It can be successfully treated so you can return to your normal, active life. There are conservative options that can help manage symptoms and several successful surgeries to treat SUI. Dr. Guerette will discuss each of these options with you and together you will determine which course of treatment is best for you.
Our PFT® Health Coaching is a unique program offered at The Female Pelvic Medicine Institute. Our Director of Rehabilitation, MaryAnne Snavely, works with women to develop proper lifestyle factors and decrease the risk of pelvic organs dropping—a common problem that can lead to issues such as urine leakage and incontinence.