Getting A Diagnosis

NHS

If you experienced urinary incontinence, see a GP so they can diagnose the type of urinary incontinence you have. Try not to be embarrassed when speaking to the GP about your condition. Urinary incontinence is a common problem and it's likely the GP has seen many people with the same problem.

A GP will ask you questions about your symptoms and medical history, including:

  • whether the urinary incontinence happens when you cough or laugh
  • whether you need the toilet frequently during the day or night
  • whether you have any difficulty passing urine when you go to the toilet
  • whether you're currently taking any medicine
  • how much fluid, alcohol or caffeine you drink

Bladder diary

The GP may suggest that you keep a diary of your bladder habits for at least 3 days so you can give them as much information as possible about your condition.

This should include:

  • how much fluid you drink
  • the types of fluid you drink
  • how often you need to pass urine
  • the amount of urine you pass
  • how many episodes of incontinence you have
  • how many times you experience an urgent need to go to the toilet

Tests and examinations

You may also need to have some tests and examinations so the GP can confirm or rule out things that may be causing incontinence.

Physical examination

A GP may examine you to assess the health of your urinary system. If you have a vagina, the GP will do a pelvic examination, which usually involves undressing from the waist down. You may be asked to cough to see if any urine leaks.

The GP may also examine your vagina to check for causes of incontinence, such as prolapse where part of the bladder bulges into the vagina.

Dipstick test

If the GP thinks your symptoms may be caused by a urinary tract infection (UTI), a sample of your urine may be tested for bacteria. A small chemically treated stick is dipped into your urine sample. It will change colour if bacteria are present. The dipstick test can also check for blood and protein in your urine.

Residual urine test

If the GP thinks you have overflow incontinence, they may suggest a test called a residual urine test to see how much urine is left in your bladder after you pee.

This usually involves an ultrasound scan of your bladder, although occasionally the amount of urine left in your bladder may be measured after your bladder is drained using a catheter.

A catheter is a thin, flexible tube that's inserted into your urethra and passed through to your bladder.

Further tests

Further tests may be necessary if the cause of your urinary incontinence is not clear. The GP will usually start treating you first and may suggest further tests if treatment is not effective.

Cystoscopy

A cystoscopy involves using a thin tube with a camera attached to it (endoscope) to look inside your bladder and urinary tract. A cystoscopy can identify abnormalities that may be causing incontinence.

Urodynamic tests

These are a group of tests used to check the function of your bladder and urethra. You may be asked to keep a bladder diary for a few days then have several tests at a hospital or clinic. Tests can include:

  • measuring the pressure in your bladder by inserting a catheter into your urethra
  • measuring the pressure in your tummy (abdomen) by inserting a catheter into your bottom
  • asking you to urinate into a special machine that measures the amount and flow of urine

Useful resources

EA is committed to ensuring that all individuals are treated fairly and with dignity and...
This Teachers' Maternity Leave Scheme has been updated to reflect the rules concerning...
Cancer Focus NI, Keeping Well vans are mobile drop-in units which bring health checks,...
This includes: Raising awareness of depression and Aware NI services at a wide range of...
We are delighted to provide this FREE digital toolkit. Designed in partnership with the...
Affected by breast cancer? Join this group to share experiences and ask questions to...
Cancer Focus NI can provide a wide range of presentations to meet the needs of your...
Sometimes when faced with an unplanned or crisis pregnancy it is difficult to discuss it...
This programme is a six week training programme for groups of adults and focuses on...
The Menopause Project is an education and research project between Informing Choices NI...
We all have good and bad days but what and when we eat can influence our mood, energy,...
There are a number of health campaigns throughout the year to raise awareness of...
Around one in five women will experience a mental health issue during pregnancy or within...
Pregnancy and guidance for after birth
The availability of free period products in public spaces has been increasing owing to...
Active 10 is a free and easy to use walking app that tracks your walking and shows you...
It’s an easy to follow programme known the world over, and perfect for those new to...
Guided meditations
Handle stress and anxiety on the go
Support for breast cancer
Guided meditations
Learn to manage negative thoughts and look at problems differently
Food diary, exercise tracker and diet coach
Support hub for mothers
Track your treatment and wellbeing
Your Mind Plan offers practical ideas and advice to help you boost and maintain your mental wellbeing. Answer the quick 5-question quiz and the Every Mind Matters widget will give you 5 tailored actions to help you feel more in control, improve your sleep, deal with stress and anxiety, and boost your mood – as well as the option to easily swap any actions and to save the whole plan via email.
This short test will help you understand how heavy your periods are, and point you in the right direction for treatment options.

Articles & Videos

Helplines & Web Chats

Informing Choices NI - Helpline
Royal Osteoporosis Society - Helpline
Macmillan - Forum
Macmillan - Ask an expert
Women's Aid - Forum
Association for Post-Natal Illness Helpline
Women's Aid - Domestic abuse helpline