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Urinary Incontinence: Diagnosis and Consecutive Management

Urinary incontinence is a common yet often underreported issue affecting many individuals, particularly women. Proper diagnosis and management are crucial in improving patients’ quality of life. This blog outlines the steps for taking a history, assessing severity, and implementing effective management strategies for various types of urinary incontinence.

Taking History and Examining the Patient

A comprehensive patient history is vital when assessing urinary incontinence. This step is not just about identifying incontinence but also about uncovering overlapping issues such as infections, bladder pain, or prolapse. Understanding the patient’s full medical history helps in tailoring the management plan effectively.

Assessment of the Severity of Incontinence

To assess the severity of incontinence, clinicians can utilize tools such as the International Consultation on Incontinence Questionnaire – Urinary Incontinence Short Form (ICIQ-UI). This questionnaire helps screen for incontinence, providing a summary of the severity, impact, and perceived causes of the symptoms. A score of 4 or less is generally considered mild, though moderate or severe are not separately defined.

Additionally, a bladder chart can be instrumental. Patients track their fluid intake and urine output, helping to distinguish between urge and stress incontinence by monitoring bladder capacity and fluid intake patterns

Types of Urinary Incontinence

  1. Urge Incontinence
    • Symptoms: Urgent desire to urinate, leakage before or during reaching the toilet.
    • Causes: Idiopathic detrusor overactivity, obstructive detrusor overactivity, neuropathic detrusor overactivity.
    • Management:
      • Bladder Training: Involves delaying urination when the urge arises, training the bladder to hold urine longer. This includes sitting to reduce urgency, contracting pelvic floor muscles, and sending strong messages from the brain to delay urination.
      • Medications: Anticholinergic drugs can help by relaxing the bladder muscle. However, these are not recommended for patients with narrow-angle glaucoma due to the risk of increasing intraocular pressure.
  2. Stress Incontinence
    • Symptoms: Leakage during activities like coughing, sneezing, laughing, running, or lifting heavy objects.
    • Causes: Risk factors include difficult vaginal births, obesity, postmenopausal status, and chronic straining to defecate.
    • Management:
      • Conservative Measures: Address precipitating factors such as respiratory issues and obesity, and manage constipation with dietary changes and bulking agents.
      • Pelvic Floor Muscle Training: A home-based program can help strengthen the muscles, improving control over urination.
  3. Incomplete Emptying/Voiding
    • Symptoms: Difficulty in completely emptying the bladder, hesitancy, poor urine stream, sensation of incomplete emptying, and post-micturition dribble.
    • Causes: In women, this can result from bladder prolapse or previous continence surgery. In men, it is commonly caused by an enlarged prostate.
    • Management:
      • Double-Emptying Technique: Encourages patients to void normally, then stand, rotate the pelvis, sit back down, lean forward, and relax the pelvic floor muscles to promote further urine flow. This can reduce residual urine volume.
      • Further Testing: If the double-emptying technique is ineffective, urodynamic testing is recommended to get a precise diagnosis. In severe cases, self-catheterization might be necessary, though it should be considered carefully.

Nocturia Management

Nocturia, the need to wake up at night to urinate, is age-dependent. Simple strategies to manage nocturia include drinking most fluids in the morning, using a half-fluid tablet (LASIX) every other morning, elevating the feet post-lunch to promote fluid movement to the kidneys, and limiting fluid intake in the evening to small amounts.


Effective management of urinary incontinence involves a detailed history, proper assessment tools, and tailored treatment strategies for each type of incontinence. By addressing underlying causes and employing conservative measures, patients can achieve significant improvements in their condition and overall quality of life. Regular follow-ups and adjustments to the management plan ensure the best outcomes for those suffering from this often debilitating condition.

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