Most people are familiar or have at least heard of urinary incontinence. Fewer are aware of another common bladder problem that predominantly affects women called stress urinary incontinence (SUI). It is estimated that 1 in 3 women suffer from the condition at some point in their lives. Over half of women with SUI also have overactive bladder.

Although SUI can affect both sexes, the condition is more common in women.   

What is Stress Urinary Incontinence?

Stress urinary incontinence occurs when urine leaks out with sudden pressure on the bladder and urethra, causing the sphincter muscles to briefly open. Symptoms may be similar to overactive bladder (also known as urgency urinary incontinence), but the two conditions differ anatomically. SUI is a urethral problem whereas OAB is a bladder problem.

Those with stress incontinence may experience urine leakage when they: 

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

Causes of SUI

When the muscles (pelvic floor and sphincter) that control your ability to hold urine get weak or do not work, stress incontinence occurs. Common causes of weakened muscles include: 

  • Childbirth
  • Injury to the urethra area
  • Certain medications
  • Surgery to the pelvic area or prostate
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Pelvic prolapse
  • Menopause
  • Hysterectomy
  • Chronic coughing due to smoking or lung disease

For men, SUI is likely caused by prostate cancer surgery, pelvic nerve injury or damage.


There are several treatment options for stress urinary incontinence that can help restore your quality of life. Your healthcare provider can help determine a customized treatment plan which may include one or more of the following:

  • Lifestyle changes, including diet and exercise to lose weight and smoking cessation
  • Pelvic floor muscle exercise
  • Biofeedback
  • Bladder retraining
  • Pelvic floor stimulation
  • Injection therapy
  • Pessary
  • Surgery

Schedule an Appointment

At Alliance Urology Specialists, our goal is to provide the highest level of specialized urology care. Our board-certified physicians specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of a variety of urological conditions, including stress urinary incontinence and overactive bladder (link to page). 

If symptoms of incontinence are interfering with your daily life, call (336) 274-1114 to schedule an appointment.