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Exams and Tests

To diagnose the cause of your urinary incontinence, your doctor will ask about your medical history and do a physical exam. It may be easier for you to answer questions if you keep a bladder diary(What is a PDF document?) for 3 or 4 days before you see your doctor.

To check for stress incontinence, your doctor may ask you to cough while you are standing.

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Your doctor may also order these tests:

  • Bladder stress test and Bonney test
  • Pad test, which can help show how much urine is leaking. You are given an absorbent pad that has been weighed. You wear the pad until urine leaks, and then you return the pad to be weighed again. The increased weight of the pad gives an estimate of how much urine leaked.
  • Urinalysis and urine culture

Urodynamic testing

Urodynamic testing is expensive. It is typically done only if surgery is being considered or if treatment has not worked for you and you need to know more about the cause. It provides a more advanced way to check bladder function.

The actual tests done in urodynamic testing often vary. They may include:

  • Cystometry, a series of tests to measure bladder pressure at different levels of fullness.
  • Postvoid residual (PVR) measurements, which measure the amount of urine that stays in your bladder after you urinate.
  • X-rays or ultrasound. These are used to examine changes in the position of the bladder and urethra during urination, coughing, or straining.

If the cause of incontinence is not identified by the above tests, more extensive tests may be needed.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: January 14, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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