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What is Stress Urinary Incontinence (SUI)?

Female Urinary Tract
Female Urinary Tract
Medical Illustration Copyright © 2015 Nucleus Medical Media, All rights reserved

Male Urinary Tract
Male Urinary Tract
Medical Illustration Copyright © 2015 Nucleus Medical Media, All rights reserved

SUI is the most common type of urine leak. It happens when activities like laughing or coughing cause urine to leak. Leakage can be a few drops or enough to soak through your clothes.

Another common bladder problem is called Overactive Bladder (OAB). It is different from SUI. People with OAB often have a sudden urge "gotta go" feeling they can't control. Some people with OAB leak urine when they feel that urge. Visit our OAB page for more information.

Key statistics

SUI is very common in women. About 1 in 3 women have SUI at some time in their life. Over half of women with SUI also have OAB. When they have both it is called "Mixed Incontinence". About one-third of women 60 and younger have some kind of urine leakage. In women age 65 and above, about half have some urine leakage.

SUI is less common in men. Many men with urine leakage have overactive bladder (OAB) instead. For most men who have SUI, it is caused by prostate cancer surgery, injury or nerve damage.

What Happens Normally?

Your bladder is the place where urine is stored until you are ready to release it. Your pelvic floor muscles hold your bladder in place. When you are ready to urinate, the brain signals your bladder muscles to contract (squeeze). This forces the urine out through the urethra.

The urethra is the tube that carries urine out of your body. It has sphincters muscles which help keep the urethra closed. These muscles prevent urine from leaking out.  When your bladder contracts, the sphincters open and urine is released.