It may be an embarrassing subject to discuss with your doctor. But, if you leak urine during everyday activities such as laughing, sneezing, coughing, crying, exercising or heavy lifting, you’re not alone.

The condition is called urinary stress incontinence, and it’s a common problem that affects mostly women. The good news is there are treatments available that can help the condition. You don’t have to accept a leaking bladder as a normal sign of aging.

How Does it Happen?

The most common reason for urine leakage is due to stretched or weakened pelvic floor muscles. This may occur due to weight gain, childbirth or other conditions that stretch the muscles as you age.

When your pelvic floor muscles can’t properly support your bladder, it drops and you can’t tighten the muscles that close off the urethra. This is what stops the flow of urine. That’s why when there is extra pressure placed on the bladder during activities such as laughing or sneezing, you accidentally leak a little bit of urine.

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What can be done to stop this from happening?

  • Lifestyle changes – Your doctor may recommend changing how much and when you drink fluids. This will help determine if your fluid intake has any effect on leakage. Other lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, quitting smoking or treating a chronic cough, may improve symptoms.
  • Pelvic floor rehabilitation – Bladder training and pelvic floor muscle training can help mild cases of urinary stress incontinence. This can include Kegel exercises to strengthen pelvic floor muscles. Pelvic rehab may also include biofeedback.
  • Devices – If lifestyle changes and pelvic floor rehab don’t help, your gynecologist may recommend a pessary. This is a plastic device inserted into the vagina that supports the neck of the bladder to help stop urine leakage.
  • Collagen injections – Injecting collagen or other bulking materials into the area around the urethra narrows it, which can help stop leakage. Multiple injections are usually required.
  • Surgery – If your condition doesn’t respond to less-invasive treatments, you may need a surgical procedure that involves placing a sling under the urethra to support it. The urethral sling helps keep the urethra closed during activities that put added pressure on the bladder. This procedure has a high success rate but should be a last-resort option, used only if other treatments have failed.

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