Urinary incontinence occurs when the normal process of storing and passing urine is disrupted. This can happen for a number of reasons. Certain factors may also increase your chance of developing urinary incontinence. Some of the possible causes lead to short-term urinary incontinence, while others may cause a long-term problem. If the cause can be treated, this may cure your incontinence.

Causes of stress incontinence:

Stress incontinence occurs when the pressure inside your bladder as it fills with urine becomes greater than the strength of your urethra to stay closed. The urethra is the tube urine passes through out of your body. Any sudden extra pressure on your bladder, such as laughing or sneezing, can then cause urine to leak out of your urethra. Your urethra may not be able to stay closed if the muscles in your pelvis (pelvic floor muscles) are weak or damaged, or your urethral sphincter – the ring of muscle that keeps the urethra closed – is damaged.

These problems may be caused by:

  • damage during childbirth – particularly if the child was born vaginally, rather than by caesarean section
  • increased pressure on your tummy – for example, because you are pregnant or obese
  • damage to the bladder or nearby area during surgery – such as the removal of the womb (hysterectomy) in women, or removal of the prostate gland in men
  • neurological conditions – that affect the brain and spinal cord, such as Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis
  • certain connective tissue disorders – such as Ehlers-Danlos syndrome
  • certain medications