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Urinary incontinence

Diagnosis of urinary incontinence

Urinary incontinence itself is typically the symptom of something else.  Your doctor will likely begin by trying to rule out any suspected underlying conditions, such as urinary tract infection.

Some standard diagnostic tests and procedures for urinary incontinence include:

  • Pelvic or abdominal physical exam
  • Urine samples to test for urinary tract infection, signs of blood in the urine, and other factors
  • Post-void-residual measurement: after you urinate, your doctor can perform a test to see how much urine is still left in your bladder, which can rule out things like a blocked urinary tract and nerve issues with the bladder
  • At-home tracking (a “pee diary”) to see how often you are urinating and try to rule out common triggers of incontinence
  • Imaging tests, such as an ultrasound or MRI of the lower abdomen


Your treatment and prevention options depend on the severity of urinary incontinence, as well as your medical history, lifestyle, and personal preferences.

Temporary urinary incontinence caused by pregnancy, urinary tract infections, and constipation will resolve without treatment when the underlying cause goes away or is relieved, such as after birth or with antibiotics.

Other causes of temporary incontinence, such as consumption of diuretics like caffeine, vitamin C, artificial sweeteners, or medications such as muscle relaxers, can also typically be relieved with at-home care.

For other causes of urinary incontinence, your doctor may discuss these treatments:

  • Lifestyle modifications: Losing weight (if you are overweight) can improve incontinence. Decreasing the amount of water you drink near bedtime and avoiding caffeine and alcohol can also help. Performing Kegel exercises can strengthen the muscles around the bladder and urethra and improve urinary control. Your doctor can teach you how to do Kegel exercises.
  • Bladder training: Bladder training can gradually improve your ability to hold and retain urine.
  • Medication: Doctors can prescribe medication to control muscle spasms, relax the bladder, and decrease the urge to urinate.
  • Medical devices: Specially designed medical devices that deliver electric current to specific nerves and muscles of the urinary tract are sometimes used to treat incontinence.
  • Surgery: Surgery is also an option to treat incontinence, notably when other treatments have failed to provide sufficient relief.

Together, you and your doctor will find the treatment that works best for you. Dignity Health provides compassionate care and treatment for urinary incontinence.

The information contained in this article is meant for educational purposes only and should not replace advice from your healthcare provider.