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Urinary Stress Incontinence and Obesity

Urinary Stress Incontinence More Likely Among Obese

Urinary stress incontinence is the most common type of incontinence and mostly affects women, especially after pregnancy and birth. It results from weakness of the urethra (the tube connecting the bladder to the outside of the body) and pelvic floor muscles. These muscles support the bladder and regulate opening and closing of the bladder when passing urine. Morbid Obesity is a well-documented risk factor for urinary stress incontinence, involuntary urine loss, as well as urge incontinence among women.

How Obesity Can Cause Urinary Stress Incontinence

Abdominal pressure caused by excessive body fat or obesity, especially when combined with relaxation of the pelvic muscles (eg. after pregnancy), may cause the valve on the urinary bladder to be weakened, leading to involuntary leakage of urine.

Obesity is a Specific Risk Factor

Some clinical studies demonstrate significant decreases in urinary stress incontinence in small study-groups of women experiencing weight loss. For example, in a study of 138 morbidly obese patients who lost 50 percent or more of their excess body weight as a result of gastric bypass, the incidence of stress incontinence fell from about 60 percent to 10 percent.

Morbid Obesity Increases Risk

The greater the abdominal pressure on the bladder area, the greater the risk of urinary stress incontinence. Thus patients with very high body mass index (BMI) who suffer from morbid obesity (BMI 40+) or malignant obesity (BMI 50+) are at greatest risk.

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