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Female Incontinence Diagnosis

Female Incontinence Diagnosis
Female Incontinence
Causes and Risk Factors

The majority of people don't like talking about urinary incontinence, as it is a personal topic. However, urinary incontinence is a common medical problem. Millions share the same problem, and doctors hear many stories related to this condition. Since no two people are exactly alike and recommendations can vary from one person to another, it’s important to seek guidance first from a family doctor about your individual situation. Then, you might see a doctor with experience treating incontinence, to learn what type is present. Accurate diagnosis is very important, as treatment based on an incorrect diagnosis might not relieve the incontinence and could even exacerbate it. 

Not all physicians treat bladder control problems. Family practitioners and internists see patients for all kinds of health conditions. If your primary doctor doesn't treat bladder problems, s/he can help find one who does. A urologist specializes in urinary tract health, and some urologists further specialize in the female urinary tract. Gynecologists and obstetricians specialize in the female reproductive system as well as childbirth. Urogynecologists focus on female urinary and associated pelvic problems. Any of these may be able to help. Some nurses and other health care providers also provide rehabilitation services and teach behavioral therapies such as fluid management and pelvic floor strengthening. Medical professionals who can help during diagnosis and treatment include:

  • Family practitioner
  • Gynecologist
  • Internist
  • Obsterician
  • Urologist
  • Urogynecologist

Medical history
To diagnose female bladder control problems, a doctor will first ask about symptoms and medical history. A woman’s pattern of voiding and urine leakage may suggest the type of incontinence being experienced. Thus, many specialists begin by asking women to fill out a bladder diary over several days. These diaries can reveal clues that help define the problem—like straining and discomfort, fluid intake, use of drugs, recent surgery, and illness. The doctor may instruct keeping a diary for a day or more—sometimes up to a week—to record when voiding occurs.

An initial exam will be most productive if you can bring a 3- to 4-day diary of what and how much you drink, and how often and how much you urinate and leak. It may also help to write down when leakage occurred, and what was happening at the time, for example, sneezing, coughing, laughing, or sleeping. To measure urine, a special pan can be used that fits over the toilet rim. If the diary and medical history do not define the problem, they will at least suggest some further tests.

Medical exams
To diagnose the cause of incontinence, doctors will also conduct a physical exam, including a pelvic exam, to check for signs of medical conditions such as treatable blockages from bowel or pelvic growths. Weakness of the pelvic floor may cause a condition called prolapse, where the vagina or bladder begins to protrude out of the body. It’s crucial to diagnose this condition at the time of evaluation. The patient may also be asked to cough while standing to check for stress incontinence. In addition, a urinalysis and urine culture may be done to check for urinary tract infection (UTI). Other tests which may be used or recommended during the diagnosis of female urinary incontinence include:

Bladder stress test - During this test, you will cough vigorously as the doctor watches for loss of urine from the urinary opening.

Cystoscopy - During this procedure, a thin tube with a tiny camera is inserted in the urethra to visualise inside the urethra and bladder to identify possible tumor growth or whether the bladder has been changed in size as a side effect of recent surgery (ex. tumor resection).

Urodynamics - Your doctor may also measure bladder capacity and residual urine for evidence of poorly functioning bladder muscles. This test has the subject urinate into a measuring pan, after which a nurse or doctor will measure any urine remaining in the bladder. Multiple techniques measure pressure in the bladder and urine flow. Urodynamic tests for urinary incontinence are measurements taken to evaluate the bladder's function and efficiency. The actual tests performed vary from person to person, but may include:

  • Cystometry (cystometrography, uroflowmetry) - These tests measure bladder pressure at different levels of fullness. Cystometry is helpful in diagnosing urge incontinence.

  • Videourodynamics - These tests X-ray the bladder and measure its pressure during filling and emptying

Urinalysis and urine culture - Laboratory technicians test the urine for signs of infection, urinary stones, or other contributing causes.

Ultrasound - This test creates an image of the kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra using sound waves.

Many women are uncomfortable mentioning bladder control problems. But it is better to speak with your doctor instead of resorting to absorbent undergarments, or diapers which can lead to lower self-esteem, along with skin irritation and sores. Effective treatments are available to manage incontinence, such as timed voiding and pelvic muscle exercises. Click here to learn more about how you can treat female urinary incontinence with incontinence products.

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Tags: female, stress incontinence, bladder control problems, bladder problems, bladder control, rehabilitation, obstetricians, tumor growth, health care, treatments, physicians, ultrasound, Childbirth, urine flow, procedure, treatment, diagnosis, infection, absorbent, sleeping
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