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Incontinence & Overactive Bladder Health Center

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Topic Overview


The main symptom is the accidental release of urine.

  • If you have stress incontinence, you may leak a small to medium amount of urine when you cough, sneeze, laugh, exercise, or do similar things.
  • If you have urge incontinence, you may feel a sudden urge to urinate and the need to urinate often. With this type of bladder control problem, you may leak a larger amount of urine that can soak your clothes or run down your legs.
  • If you have mixed incontinence, you may have symptoms of both problems.

Your doctor will ask about what and how much you drink. He or she will also ask how often and how much you urinate and leak. It may help to keep track of these things using a bladder diary for 3 or 4 days before you see your doctor.

Your doctor will examine you and may do some simple tests to look for the cause of your bladder control problem. If your doctor thinks it may be caused by more than one problem, you will likely have more tests.

Treatments are different for each person. They depend on the type of incontinence you have and how much it affects your life. After your doctor knows what has caused the incontinence, your treatment may include exercises, bladder training, medicines, a pessary, or a combination of these. Some women may need surgery.

There are also some things you can do at home. In many cases, these lifestyle changes can be enough to control incontinence.

  • Cut back on caffeine drinks, such as coffee and tea. Also cut back on fizzy drinks like soda pop. And don't drink more than one alcohol drink a day.
  • Eat foods high in fiber to help avoid constipation.
  • Don't smoke. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about stop-smoking programs and medicines. These can increase your chances of quitting for good.
  • Stay at a healthy weight.
  • Try simple pelvic-floor exercises like Kegel exercises.
  • Go to the bathroom at several set times each day, and wear clothes that you can remove easily. Make your path to the bathroom as clear and quick as you can.
  • Keep track of your symptoms and any leaking of urine with a bladder diary. This can help you and your doctor find the best treatment for you.

If you have symptoms of urinary incontinence, don't be embarrassed to tell your doctor. Most people can be helped or cured.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: September 09, 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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