Information for the public
Finding out what is wrong
When your healthcare professional assesses your condition, he or she should decide whether you have stress incontinence, urgency incontinence or overactive bladder, or mixed incontinence. Your treatment should be based on which type you have – or for mixed incontinence, on your main symptom.
Your healthcare professional should look for anything that might have caused the incontinence and for other conditions that may need further investigation or treatment. In some cases, he or she may refer you to a specialist.
You should be offered a 'dipstick test' on a sample of your urine. The test can help to detect an infection, which may contribute to your incontinence. A sample of your urine may be sent for further testing. If you have an infection, you should be offered a course of antibiotics.
You should be asked to complete a 'bladder diary' to help your doctor assess how your bladder is working. In it, you should record, for example, how much fluid you drink, how often you need to urinate and how much urine you pass. You should keep the diary for at least 3 days and cover different activities, for example both working and leisure days.
Your healthcare professional may recommend that you have an ultrasound scan of your bladder to check that it is emptying completely. You should not be offered other imaging (such as X‑rays, MRI or CT scans) as part of your initial assessment.
If the cause of your bladder problem is not known after tests to find out why your bladder and urethra (the tube from the bladder to the outside of the body) are not working properly, your healthcare professional may recommend that you have urodynamic tests that look at the way your bladder works while you move around as normal.