Urinary incontinence refers to the unintentional loss of urine. Pregnancy, childbirth and menopause all contribute to urinary incontinence, which is a common and treatable condition.
Female urinary incontinence can be grouped in several categories. These are the most common:
- Stress urinary incontinence: Leakage occurs with increases in abdominal pressure (coughing, laughing, sneezing, lifting, etc.).
- Urge urinary incontinence: Often referred to as “overactive bladder.” This is the inability to hold urine long enough to reach the bathroom. Women often describe a sudden urge to urinate, followed immediately by leaking.
- Mixed incontinence: When two or more causes contribute to urinary incontinence. This often refers to the presence of both stress and urge incontinence. Often, a woman may first experience one kind of leaking, and finds that the other begins to occur later.
- Overflow incontinence: The involuntary loss of urine that occurs when the bladder fails to empty any significant amount. It constantly fills and overflows. Diabetes and neurological diseases are often contributing factors to overflow incontinence.
Preparing for your appointment
Plan to discuss this problem with your provider by paying special attention to:
- Conditions and events that lead to your frequency, urgency or incontinent episodes
- The frequency of your incontinence
- The strategies you use to cope with your incontinence
Make sure you obtain records from your primary care provider prior to your visit. If you have had a previous surgery for this problem, obtain those records as well.
Once you have taken the first step in speaking with your provider, the next step is a thorough evaluation by a provider specializing in urinary incontinence in women. This evaluation may include:
- Patient history
- Physical examination
- Urologic assessment
- Urinalysis and urine culture
- Post void residual urine – measured after urination
- Cystoscopy – a small telescope that looks in the bladder
- Urodynamics – a series of tests, performed in the office, to determine the characteristics of storing and emptying fluid
Once all of the initial evaluation is complete, an individualized treatment plan will be developed to meet your specific condition.