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Evaluation of women with urinary incontinence

Emily S Lukacz, MD, MAS
Section Editors
Linda Brubaker, MD, FACS, FACOG
Kenneth E Schmader, MD
Deputy Editor
Kristen Eckler, MD, FACOG


Urinary incontinence, the involuntary leakage of urine, often remains undetected and undertreated [1-3]. It is estimated that between 26 and 61 percent of community-dwelling women seek care for urinary incontinence [4-6]. Patients may be reluctant to initiate discussions about their incontinence and urinary symptoms due to embarrassment, lack of knowledge about treatment options, and/or fear of surgery.

This topic will review the epidemiology, risk factors, etiology, and initial evaluation of the non-pregnant woman with urinary incontinence. The treatment of urinary incontinence in women and urinary incontinence in pregnant women and in men are discussed separately. (See "Treatment of urinary incontinence in women" and "Urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse associated with pregnancy and childbirth" and "Urinary incontinence in men".)


Urinary incontinence is not associated with increased mortality [7]. However, incontinence can impact many other aspects of a patient's health.

Quality of life – Urinary incontinence is associated with depression and anxiety, work impairment, and social isolation [8-12]. Urinary incontinence has been demonstrated to adversely impact quality of life even in nursing home residents [13].

Sexual dysfunction – Incontinence during sexual activity (coital incontinence), which may affect up to one-third of all incontinent individuals, and fear of incontinence during sexual activity both contribute to incontinence-related sexual dysfunction [14]. Urgency incontinence had greater negative impact on sexual function compared with urgency or frequency without incontinence [15,16].


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Literature review current through: Sep 2016. | This topic last updated: Oct 17, 2016.
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