Urinary Incontinence

Urinary incontinence means not being able to control the release of urine. Sometimes it's caused by a temporary problem, like a urinary infection, and goes away when the infection is treated. In other cases, it's caused by changes in the muscles or nerves around the bladder and the problem is an ongoing one. Treatment includes exercises, medicines, and sometimes surgery.


What causes urinary incontinence?

Urinary incontinence may be caused by many things. These include conditions that stretch, weaken, or damage the pelvic floor muscles. They can also be caused by problems either in the urinary tract or the nerves that control urination. Other causes include age-related changes, medical conditions such as stroke, and the side effects from medicines.


How is urinary incontinence diagnosed?

To diagnose urinary incontinence, your doctor will ask about your past health. You'll have a physical exam and be asked about any symptoms. Depending on your symptoms, you may have a pelvic exam. Or if your symptoms could be caused by prostate problems, you may have a rectal exam.

Your doctor will ask about what and how much you drink. You will also be asked how much and how often you urinate and leak urine. It may be easier for you to answer questions if you keep track of these things using a bladder diary for 3 or 4 days before you see your doctor.

You'll also be asked about any medicines you take.

Your doctor will check a sample of your urine. Depending on your results, or if your doctor thinks that your problem may have more than one cause, you may have more tests.

Other tests may include:

  • A urine culture. It finds bacteria that can cause urinary tract infections or prostatitis.
  • A bladder stress test. It simulates the accidental release of urine that may occur when you cough, sneeze, laugh, or exercise.
  • A post-void residual volume test. It measures the amount of urine left after you empty your bladder.
  • Urodynamic testing. It is a group of tests to check how well the urinary tract stores and releases urine.


How is urinary incontinence treated?

Treatment depends on the type of urinary incontinence you have. It may include bladder training, changes to your diet, medicines, and Kegel exercises to strengthen the muscles that control the flow of urine. Or it may be a combination of these. Surgery is sometimes needed.