Diagnosis of Bladder Control Problems (Urinary Incontinence)
How do health care professionals find the cause of a bladder control problem?
A health care professional will ask about your family and medical history and give you a physical exam. The exam will look for medical problems that may lead to accidental urine loss, also called urinary incontinence (UI). You may be asked to cough while your bladder is full to see if you leak urine. This is called a stress test, and health care professionals use it to help diagnose stress incontinence.
Additionally, you may be asked to keep a bladder diary, and your health care professional may order labs and other diagnostic tests.
A bladder diary (PDF, 487.59 KB) is a record of
- what, when, and how much you drink
- when you urinate and the amount you urinate
- how often you leak
- whether you feel a strong urge to go before a urine leak
- what you were doing when the leaks happened
You may want to keep a bladder diary for 2 to 3 days before seeing your health care professional. This helps your health care professional see patterns to narrow down the cause of your bladder control problems.
What tests do health care professionals use to help find the cause of a bladder control problem?
Your health care professional may order one or more tests to help find the cause of UI.
- Urinalysis can test your urine for a bladder infection, a kidney problem, or diabetes.
- Blood tests can show problems with how well your kidneys work or a chemical imbalance in your body.
- Urodynamic testing, including electromyography, looks at how well parts of the urinary tract—the bladder, urethra, and sphincters—are storing and releasing urine.
- Cystoscopy is a procedure that uses a cystoscope—a long, thin instrument—to look inside the urethra and bladder.
- Imaging tests can be used to take pictures of the inside of the body, including the urinary tract and nervous system.
This content is provided as a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
(NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health. NIDDK translates and disseminates research findings to increase knowledge and understanding about health and disease among patients, health professionals, and the public. Content produced by NIDDK is carefully reviewed by NIDDK scientists and other experts.