Diagnosis of Urinary Incontinence

April 2013
American Family Physician;4/15/2013, Vol. 87 Issue 8, p543
Academic Journal
Urinary incontinence is common, increases in prevalence with age, and affects quality of life for men and women. The initial evaluation occurs in the family physician's office and generally does not require urologic or gynecologic evaluation. The basic workup is aimed at identifying possible reversible causes. If no reversible cause is identified, then the incontinence is considered chronic. The next step is to determine the type of incontinence (urge, stress, overflow, mixed, or functional) and the urgency with which it should be treated. These determinations are made using a patient questionnaire, such as the 3 Incontinence Questions, an assessment of other medical problems that may contribute to incontinence, a discussion of the effect of symptoms on the patient's quality of life, a review of the patient's completed voiding diary, a physical examination, and, if stress incontinence is suspected, a cough stress test. Other components of the evaluation include laboratory tests and measurement of postvoid residual urine volume. If the type of urinary incontinence is still not clear, or if red flags such as hematuria, obstructive symptoms, or recurrent urinary tract infections are present, referral to a urologist or urogynecologist should be considered.


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