If you’re leaking urine and it’s causing you distress, don’t wait. There are healthcare professionals who can identify the cause and recommend the best treatment to help you.
Urinary incontinence is the name for involuntary leakage of urine. If you leak urine by accident, you may have this condition, which is also known as the loss of bladder control. It affects twice as many women as men, according to the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Research on Women’s Health.
A doctor or healthcare professional can talk with you about medical and surgical treatments available for urinary incontinence. Here’s what you’ll need to know before that appointment.
Here’s more detailed information about urinary incontinence.
You can consider seeing any of these types of doctors to get started:
- Primary care doctor: If you already have an established relationship with a primary care professional, it’s good to start there. If necessary, they can refer you to a specialist.
- Gynecologist: You can also start by talking with your gynecologist or OB-GYN, if you have one, about your symptoms.
- Urologist: Urologists specialize in treating urinary tract disorders.
- Urogynecologist: With specialized training in treating both women’s reproductive system issues and urinary tract issues, a urogynecologist may be the right choice for diagnosing, treating, and managing your urinary incontinence. They’re specially equipped to address issues such as pelvic organ prolapse and stress incontinence.
To make talking with your healthcare professional go smoothly, prepare in advance.
- Write down your symptoms so you’ll be ready to discuss them and won’t forget any details.
- List any medications you’re taking.
- Write down other key medical details that may be relevant.
- Ask a trusted friend or relative to accompany you to your appointment.
Tips for talking about urinary incontinence with your healthcare professionals
It can be a little overwhelming when you finally sit down with a healthcare professional to discuss your urinary incontinence symptoms. These tips can help you be ready to make the most of your appointment:
- Write down any concerns you might have in advance.
- Ask questions about the most likely cause of your symptoms.
- Ask what tests you might need.
- Ask about treatments and side effects from treatments.
- Be prepared for a doctor to ask about your symptoms, as well as your diet and lifestyle choices like smoking and alcohol use.
- Take notes or write down suggestions from the doctor so you don’t have to rely on your memory.
To find the right doctor to treat your condition, you can start with a primary care doctor or, if applicable, with a gynecologist. They may be able to refer you to a urologist or urogynecologist who specializes in treating urinary incontinence and other related conditions.
To diagnose your particular condition, a doctor will probably start by taking a medical history and conducting a physical examination. Along with a urine test, a doctor might perform a bladder stress test. This is an easy, noninvasive way to see if you leak urine when stress is put on your bladder.
Eventually, a doctor might also suggest some other tests. For example, they might perform an ultrasound of your abdomen or pelvis to look for any potential cause of the incontinence.
Another test may include a cystoscopy, which entails threading a narrow tube with a camera into your urethra and bladder to look for damage. Urodynamics can also be used, which involves filling your bladder with water via a narrow tube and then measuring the pressure to see how much your bladder can hold.
Medical treatment recommendations for urinary incontinence often include:
- medications for bladder control difficulties, such as oxybutynin (Oxytrol For Women, Oxytrol, Ditropan XL), tolterodine (Detrol and Detrol LA), and others
- treatment for constipation, since constipation can contribute to urinary incontinence
- vaginal estrogen cream
- Botox injections in your bladder
- bulking gels or pastes around your urethra
- medical devices, such as catheters for draining urine, urethral inserts, and vaginal pessaries, which support your pelvic floor muscles and reduce pressure on your bladder
- biofeedback devices
- electrical nerve stimulation to strengthen your bladder muscles
A doctor might also recommend that you try some lifestyle changes and exercises at home, which may include:
- bladder training exercises
- weight loss to reduce pressure on your bladder
- quitting smoking
- pelvic floor physical therapy, which may include Kegel exercises, biofeedback, electric stimulation, or various muscle strengthening exercises
- dietary changes, including reducing your consumption of carbonated, caffeinated, and alcoholic beverages
In certain serious cases, a doctor may recommend surgery, but bladder removal surgery is usually only recommended if other treatments have been exhausted.
Home and lifestyle treatments can be very effective for people with mild cases. But it can take a month or longer for treatment to begin working.
Additionally, people who do Kegel exercises, a simple exercise to strengthen their pelvic floor muscles, may need to wait at least 4–6 weeks before they notice any improvement in the amount of urine they leak.
What’s the most common kind of urinary incontinence?
According to Stanford Medicine, the most common kind of urinary incontinence is stress incontinence. When you have stress incontinence, you may leak some urine when you cough, sneeze, or laugh or engage in other activities that may put pressure on your bladder, like exercising or lifting heavy objects.
Does pelvic organ prolapse make you more likely to develop urinary incontinence?
It can. If any (or all) of your pelvic organs, including your bladder, uterus, or rectum, move out of their usual place into your anus or vagina, your bladder and urethra may not be able to continue functioning normally. As a result, urine may leak out.
What’s the most likely cause of urinary incontinence in men?
Men can develop urinary incontinence, too. Chances are if you’re male and you have urinary incontinence, you can blame your prostate. A few of the most likely causes include inflammation of your prostate gland, an enlarged prostate, and damage to the nerves or muscles after surgery.
People often ask if there’s just one type of urinary incontinence, but could there be multiple causes?
There are actually several variations of this condition, including stress incontinence, urge incontinence, functional incontinence, and overflow incontinence. Some people even experience a combination of them. A doctor will try to determine the most likely cause since that will help them recommend the best treatment for you.
Do I have to get surgery to experience any improvement?
Not necessarily. Once you find a doctor who can determine the cause of your urinary incontinence, they can talk with you about your various treatment options, which include both medical treatments and lifestyle changes. For example, experts often suggest that women with stress incontinence try doing Kegel exercises.
You don’t have to resign yourself to a life of dribbling urine and not being able to control it.
A healthcare professional can help you.
Seeing the right kind of doctor and getting the correct diagnosis can put you on the path toward treatment — and improvement in your condition.