Exam Overview

A medical history is the most important part of the examination for
urinary incontinence. During the medical history, your doctor will
ask you to describe:

  • How long you have had
  • What, if anything, you are doing (laughing, coughing,
    or changing posture) when you experience incontinence.
  • How often
    you have the problem and how much urine you lose.
  • Risk factors you
    may have, such as ongoing (chronic)
    bladder infections or
    prostatitis, that could lead to
  • Your eating habits.
  • Your bowel habits, to
    find out whether chronic constipation may be contributing to
  • Prescription and nonprescription medicines you
  • Treatments for previous problems affecting your urinary
  • Your use of pads or other protective devices to control
    urine loss.
  • How much caffeine, alcohol, and other fluids you drink

Your doctor will ask questions about your general
health and specific questions about your urinary and reproductive tracts,
intestines, and
nervous system to find clues to the cause of the
incontinence. He or she will also ask about conditions that are related to
incontinence, including:

Symptoms and conditions that often are related to incontinence also
will be investigated, such as:

A physical exam often includes a thorough abdominal,
rectal, and genital examination. The doctor:

  • Looks for growths such as tumors in the pelvic
  • Checks for an enlarged prostate or reduced anal muscle
  • Checks to see whether a nervous system problem is causing
    muscle weakness or loss of reflexes.

Why It Is Done

A history and physical exam are usually done for everyone who sees
the doctor about urinary incontinence.



  • No growths or physical abnormalities are
  • The prostate is not enlarged, and there is no evidence of
    prostate cancer.
  • There is no abnormal muscle weakness or reflex
    loss because of a nerve problem.
  • You do not have


What To Think About

The medical history is very important and can determine some causes
of incontinence.

Be certain to tell your doctor about all prescription
and nonprescription medicines you are taking.

The physical exam sometimes can identify abnormalities in the
prostate, abdomen, or nervous system that may be causing incontinence or
contributing to it. Findings from the physical exam help your doctor know whether
further testing is needed.

Complete the medical test information form (PDF) (What is a PDF document?) to help you prepare for this test.


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD – Internal Medicine
Adam Husney, MD – Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Avery L. Seifert, MD – Urology

Current as ofMay 5, 2017