It is critical that the correct diagnosis be made before instituting a treatment plan for urinary incontinence. Most often, the diagnosis can be made in your doctor's office without complex or invasive testing. The diagnosis starts with a complete history and physical exam, which can often determine the cause of urinary incontinence. Details regarding frequency and amount of urination as well as urinary leakage are reviewed. Your doctor will also ask about past surgical and medical history as well as what medications you are taking. Your doctor may also have you fill out a voiding diary where you record how much you drink and how much you urinate, including specifics about leakage episodes.
The physical exam should include a mental status exam, general exam, and detailed pelvic exam. The pelvic exam will often provide valuable information regarding the cause for urinary incontinence. A urine sample to rule out infection and cancer is often obtained.
Office-based testing can help to characterize urinary incontinence. This testing can include urodynamics (a test in which a catheter is used to fill the bladder with warm water to test the bladder's sensation and function), cystoscopy (a thin tube with a tiny lens, inserted through the urethra to look for abnormalities including cancer), and radiologic tests (X-ray, ultrasound, or CT scan to assess for kidney stones and other abnormalities).
Last reviewed on 1/29/10
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