SURGERY is one treatment option for people with a condition called stress urinary incontinence, which causes them to leak urine when they laugh, cough, sneeze or do anything that puts pressure on the bladder. Other treatment methods include conservative measures like pelvic floor strengthening exercises and weight loss, which will help a significant number of people with this condition.
There are different theories as to the cause of stress incontinence, but it occurs when the muscles and other tissues that support the bladder (pelvic floor muscles) and the muscles that regulate the release of urine (urinary sphincter) weaken, says the Mayo Clinic.
The condition, it says, is not related to psychological stress, and differs from urge incontinence, which is the unintentional loss of urine caused by the bladder muscle contracting, usually associated with a sense of urgency. Stress incontinence is much more common in women than men.
The condition can make sufferers feel embarrassed, isolate themselves, or limit their work and social life, especially exercise and leisure activities.
A woman's pelvic floor muscles and urinary sphincter may lose strength because of childbirth, and stress incontinence from this damage may begin soon after delivery or years later.
In men, the most common factor leading to stress incontinence is the surgical removal of the prostate gland (prostatectomy) to treat prostate cancer, the Mayo Clinic said. Because the sphincter lies directly below the prostate gland and encircles the urethra, a prostatectomy may result in a weakened sphincter.
Other factors that may worsen stress incontinence include illnesses that cause chronic coughing or sneezing, obesity, smoking, which can cause frequent coughing, and high-impact activities such as running and jumping over a period of many years
According to consultant urologist Dr Gareth Reid, much of the surgery to treat stress urinary incontinence is minimally invasive, meaning the doctor will make smaller cuts than in regular surgery and use small tools that he or she controls from the outside.
Risks from surgery are dependent on a number of factors such as the type of surgery and the individual's age. Potential problems, he said, include bleeding; infection or a tear in the bladder; trouble getting all the urine out when urinating; stress incontinence after surgery; urgency incontinence or overactive bladder syndrome; pain during sex; and pain in the groin.