How is Urinary Incontinence Diagnosed?

Urinary incontinence is easy to recognize. The primary symptom most people experience is an involuntary release of urine. But the type and cause of the incontinence can be more difficult to determine and may require a variety of exams and tests. It is important to talk to your doctor about your symptoms. This is the best way for your doctor to determine which type of urinary incontinence you have. With a better understanding of what is causing the problem, your physician can provide a more customized treatment plan for you. To help with diagnosis, they may refer you for:

A bladder diary – Your doctor may have you track your fluid intake and output over several days. This may include any episodes of incontinence or urgency issues. To help you measure the amount of urine you pass during an episode of incontinence, you may be asked to use a calibrated container that fits over your toilet to collect the urine.

Urinalysis – A urine sample can be checked for infections, traces of blood, or other abnormalities, such as the presence of cancer cells. A urine culture can assess for infection; urine cytology looks for cancer cells.

Blood tests – Blood tests can look for chemicals and substances that may relate to conditions causing the incontinence.

Pelvic ultrasound – In this imaging test, an ultrasound device is used to create an image of the bladder or other parts of the urinary tract to check for problems.

Postvoid residual (PVR) measurement – In this procedure, the patient empties the bladder completely and the physician uses a device to measure how much urine, if any, remains in the bladder. A large amount of residual urine in the bladder suggests overflow incontinence.

Stress test – In this test, the patient is asked to cough or vigorously tense her midsection as though exerting herself while the physician checks for loss of urine.

Urodynamic testing – This test measures the pressure that the bladder muscles and urinary sphincter can tolerate both at rest and during filling.

Cystogram – In this series of X-rays of the bladder, a dye is injected into the bladder and as the patient urinates, the dye shows up in the X-rays and can reveal abnormalities in the urinary tract.

Cystoscopy – This procedure uses a thin tube with a tiny lens and a light at one end called a cystoscope. After the administration of some sedation medications or anaesthesia, the cystoscope is inserted into the urethra and the physician visually checks the lining of the bladder and urethra.