Stress incontinence

Alternative Names

Incontinence – stress

Definition of Stress incontinence

Stress incontinence is an involuntary loss of urine that occurs during physical activity, such as coughing, sneezing, laughing, or exercise.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

The ability to hold urine and control urination depends on the normal function of the lower urinary tract, the kidneys, and the nervous system. You must also have the ability to recognize and respond to the urge to urinate.


The main symptom of stress incontinence is involuntary loss of urine. It may occur when:

Signs and tests

The health care provider will perform a physical exam, including a:


Treatment depends on how severe the symptoms are and how much they interfere with your everyday life.

Expectations (prognosis)

Behavioral changes, pelvic floor exercise therapy, and medication usually improve symptoms rather than cure stress incontinence. Surgery can cure most carefully selected patients.


Louis S. Liou, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Urology, Department of Surgery, Boston University School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc. – 8/30/2009

Female urinary tract
Male urinary tract
Anterior vaginal wall repair
Stress incontinence
Stress incontinence

ADAM Medical Encyclopedia

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