What is urinary incontinence?

Updated: Mar 19, 2019
  • Author: Sandip P Vasavada, MD; Chief Editor: Edward David Kim, MD, FACS  more...
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Answer

Urinary incontinence is defined by the International Continence Society as the involuntary loss of urine that represents a hygienic or social problem to the individual. [6] Urinary incontinence can be thought of as a symptom as reported by the patient, as a sign that is demonstrable on examination, and as a disorder.

Urinary incontinence should not be thought of as a disease, because no specific etiology exists; most individual cases are likely multifactorial in nature. The etiologies of urinary incontinence are diverse and, in many cases, incompletely understood.

Patients with urinary incontinence should undergo a basic evaluation that includes a history, physical examination, and urinalysis (see Presentation). Additional information from a patient's voiding diary, cotton-swab test, cough stress test, measurement of postvoid residual (PVR) urine volume, cystoscopy, and urodynamic studies may be needed in selected patients (see Workup).

Videourodynamic studies are reserved to evaluate complex cases of stress urinary incontinence. Videourodynamic studies combine the radiographic findings of a voiding cystourethrogram and multichannel urodynamics. Go to Urodynamic Studies for Urinary Incontinence for more information on this topic.


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