Urinary incontinence is the inability to control your stream of urine (leaking urine when it is undesired). This is a very common problem. It is not necessarily a normal part of aging, and it can occur in women of all ages. Most often incontinence is caused either by an anatomical problem or an issue with uncontrolled bladder spasms. Although this problem is not life threatening, it can impact your lifestyle to the point of restricting your daily activities.
You need not suffer in silence. There are ways of diagnosing urinary incontinence. One of the preliminary tests includes a urine culture to rule out the possibility of a bladder infection or urinary tract infection, which can cause spasm. In addition, an urinalysis is also performed.
A most helpful test is a special bladder function test called cystometrics, which can be done in the office. The test is done by inserting a rubber catheter into the bladder after the urethra is anesthetized and then placing saline into the bladder. You will be instructed to let the doctor know when you first feel the urge to use the bathroom. The doctor will continue to fill your bladder until you cannot tolerate it any further (this is the bladder capacity). Afterwards, the doctor will ask you to cough and bear down to see if she can mimic the symptoms that you have. This will be done while laying down and standing up. Afterwards, you will be asked to void in the bathroom. After you return, the doctor will recheck you with a catheter to see how much urine in still remaining (this is the post-void residual). The results of this study will help determine if your problem requires surgical correction, the type of surgical procedure needed, or whether medications should be used to reduce bladder spasm.