Causes

Most cases of stress incontinence are due to weakened pelvic floor muscles.

The commonest reason for the pelvic floor muscles to become weakened in women is childbirth in men it is prostate surgery. The pelvic floor muscles are a group of muscles that wrap around the underside of the bladder and rectum.

Stress incontinence is also more common with increasing age as the muscles become weaker, particularly in women after the menopause. Stress incontinence is also more common in those who are obese or those with a chronic cough.

What are the treatment options?

The usual first treatment is to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. About 6 in 10 cases of stress incontinence can be cured or much improved with this treatment.

Strengthening the pelvic floor muscles – ‘pelvic floor exercises’

It is important that you exercise the correct muscles. Your doctor may refer you to a continence advisor or physiotherapist for advice on the exercises.

Surgery

Various surgical operations are used to treat stress incontinence. They tend only to be used when the pelvic floor muscle exercises have not helped.

The operations aim to ‘tighten’ or support the muscles and structures below the bladder. Surgery is often successful.