Stress urinary incontinence: is it common?

Stress Urinary incontinence (SUI), as defined by the International Urogynecological Association (IUGA), is an “involuntary loss of urine on effort or physical exertion, or on sneezing or coughing”. SUI occurs when there is an increase of intra abdominal pressure caused by activity. Women suffering from SUI don’t feel pain during urination nor do they feel the urge to empty the bladder: the urine loss is completely involuntary. SUI can be a huge discomfort for those who suffer from it and even compromise someone’s social life to different extents.

How common it is?

It is a much more common problem than you might think. It is estimated that in the Netherlands 5% of the population suffer from SUI, and the prevalence among women reaches from 10 to 40%[i]

How does it happen?

It might occur in two ways. It can happen as a failure of the supportive action of the pelvic floor muscles or as a dysfunction in the closure mechanism of the urethra. The urethra is the tube that connects your bladder to the outside and it is closed by a sphincter surrounded by muscle that allows for voluntary control. Reasons for a defective function of the urethral closure can be hormonal (estrogen deficiency, menopause), or caused by catheterization, for example. Pelvic floor failure, though, can be a consequence of pregnancy, a difficult delivery or overweight and it is a more treatable SUI factor.


[i] KNGF Guideline Stress urinary incontinence. ISSN 1567-6137 · Volume April 2011 . KNGF Guideline number V-02/2011