Bladder control problems in women: Seek treatment
Recognize the warning signs and symptoms of a bladder control problem. Know when you should seek a doctor's help and how you can get the most out of your visit.
By Mayo Clinic Staff
If you're one of the many women who experience bladder control problems, don't let embarrassment keep you from getting the help you need. Leaking urine, having to urinate frequently and experiencing other symptoms of urinary incontinence aren't trivial consequences of childbirth or a natural part of aging.
Not all doctors routinely ask about urinary function during an exam. It's up to you to take the first step. If you have bladder control problems, tell your doctor about them and ask for help.
Why to seek help
Bladder control problems require medical attention for several reasons. Reduced bladder control may:
- Cause you to restrict your physical activities
- Lead you to withdraw from social interactions
- Increase risk of falling if you have balance problems and rush to the bathroom to avoid leaking urine
Sometimes having a bladder control problem means you may have a serious underlying medical condition, such as diabetes or kidney disease.
When to seek help
A few isolated incidents of urinary incontinence don't necessarily require medical attention. And most people, as they age, have to get up to urinate at night. But if the problem affects your quality of life, consider having your symptoms evaluated.
Make an appointment with your primary care provider if:
- You're embarrassed by urine leakage, and you avoid important activities because of it
- You often feel urgency to urinate and rush to a bathroom, but sometimes don't make it in time
- You often feel the need to urinate, but you're unable to pass urine
- You notice that your urine stream is getting progressively weaker, or you feel as if you can't empty your bladder well
Most of the time, symptoms can be improved.
When to seek a specialist
Many health care providers can evaluate bladder control problems without referring you to a specialist. In spite of better understanding and treatment of urinary incontinence, some providers may consider it an inevitable consequence of childbearing, menopause or aging. Others may lack the time, training or experience that make them likely to consider you for evaluation or treatment.
If your doctor dismisses symptoms that have an impact on your quality of life, or if the treatments he or she prescribes fail, ask for referral to a specialist. Doctors who specialize in urinary disorders include:
Feb. 06, 2016
- Geriatrician. This medical doctor specializes in the care of older adults, often with emphasis on problems related to common quality-of-life issues, such as urinary incontinence.
- Urogynecologist. This is an obstetrician-gynecologist with additional training in problems that affect the pelvic floor — the network of muscles, ligaments, connective tissue and nerves that helps support and control the bladder and other pelvic organs.
- Urologist. A urologist specializes in male and female urinary disorders, as well as the male reproductive system.
See more In-depth
- Duralde ER, et al. Bridging the gap: Determinants of undiagnosed or untreated urinary incontinence in women. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. In press. Accessed Jan. 16, 2016.
- Lukacz ES. Evaluation of women with urinary incontinence. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Jan. 16, 2016.
- What I need to know about bladder control for women. National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse. http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/urologic-disease/urinary-incontinence-women/Pages/ez.aspx. Accessed Jan. 16, 2016.
- Qaseem A, et al. Nonsurgical management of urinary incontinence in women: A clinical practice guideline from the American College of Physicians. Annals of Internal Medicine. 2014;161:429.
- Lukacz ES. Treatment of women with urinary incontinence. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Jan. 16, 2016.
- Urinary incontinence fact sheet. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women's Health. http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/urinary-incontinence.html. Accessed Jan. 16, 2016.
- Wood LN, et al. Urinary incontinence in women. The BMJ. 2014;349:g4531.
- Wein AJ, et al., eds. Evaluation and Management of Women with Urinary Incontinence and Pelvic Prolapse. Campbell-Walsh Urology. 11th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2016. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Jan. 16, 2016.
- Lightning DL (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Jan. 20, 2016.