What Causes SUI?

Front view of bladder.  Weak pelvic muscles allow urine leakage (left).  Strong pelvic muscles keep the urethra closed (right).
Front view of bladder. Weak pelvic muscles allow urine leakage (left).
Strong pelvic muscles keep the urethra closed (right).
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Health

SUI happens when your pelvic floor muscles are stretched, weak or damaged. The pelvic floor muscles support the bladder and uretha. If they become weak, the muscles may not hold in urine. Pregnancy and childbirth can damage or weaken these muscles. SUI be caused by nerve injuries to the lower back or pelvic surgery (like surgery for prostate cancer). SUI can also happen when the sphincter muscles around your urehra are not strong enough to hold back urine

What increases my risk of getting SUI?

SUI is more common among older women. But it is not caused simply by aging or being female. It happens in younger women and some men. Risk factors for SUI include:

  • Gender:  females are more likely to get SUI
  • Pregnancy and childbirth
  • Nerve injuries to the lower back
  • Pelvic or prostate surgery
  • Smoking
  • Chronic coughing

How do I Talk About SUI with my Health Care Provider?

If you think you have SUI, see your health care provider. That is the only way to know for sure. Your health care provider can help you find relief.

You may not feel comfortable talking about your SUI symptoms. A little planning will make you more confident. Here are some tips to help you talk openly with your health care provider:

Be Prepared

Before you visit with your health care provider, gather information. Write down your experiences and questions and bring this with you. Your notes will help you remember what you want to say. Make lists of:

  • Prescription drugs, over-the-counter-medicines, vitamins and/or herbs you take
  • Past and current illnesses or injuries
  • Your symptoms and how they affect you
  • Questions you want to ask

Bring a Friend

If you don't mind sharing this health information with a relative or good friend, ask someone to go with you to your vist. An "appointment buddy" can help remind you of things to say and questions to ask. A "buddy" can be a second set of ears and can take notes to help you remember what your health care provider said.

Bring up the Topic

If your health care provider doesn't ask you about SUI symptoms, bring up the topic. Don't wait until the end of your visit. Talk about it early on. That way there will be time for questions. If a nurse meets with your first, tell the nurse about your symptoms.

Take Notes

Bring a pad of paper and a pen to take notes.

Speak Freely

Tell your health care provider about your symptoms. Talk about how they are changing your life. Share your feelings. Your health care provider is used to hearing all kinds of problems. Before your vist, think about what you want to say and be ready to talk freely. Some peple find it helpful to share the answers to these questions with their health care provider:

  • Is SUI stopping me from doing things outside of my home?
  • Am I afraid to be too far from a bathroom or change of clothes?
  • Have I stopped exercising or playing sports?
  • Have I changed the way I live because I am afraid of urine leakage?
  • Have I become uncomfortable with myself and my body?
  • Have my symptoms changed my relationship with friends or family?
  • Am I avoiding sex because I am worried that I may leak urine and be embarrassed?

Ask Questions

The best way to take control over SUI is to ask every question you have.  A visit to your health care provider is the right time to ask questions. It is best to write down what you want to ask in advance. Bring this list with you to your visit.

Talk About Follow-up Care

Ask your health care provier when you should make your next appointment. Ask what you should bring to that visit