If urinary urgency is interfering with your regular activities, talk to your doctor. Speaking up can change your life.

Your bladder needs your kidneys, nerve signals and muscles to all be in sync with one another. When they're not, you may experience overactive bladder and incontinence, leaving you with symptoms that can reduce quality of life. "Don't be embarrassed to talk with your doctor," says Alan Garely, M.D., director of urogynecology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. You won't be bringing up anything the doctor hasn't heard before.

Your primary physician (or gynecologist, urologist or urogynecologist) should be able to pinpoint the root of your problem and determine a treatment plan. Here, what you need to get the conversation started.

Before Your Doctor Visit

Your doctor may have asked you to keep a bladder diary for a few days before your appointment. In it, you'd detail fluids you consume and when you urinate, feel an urge and experience leaks.

Right Now

No bladder diary? No problem. Take a few minutes and make a mental list of the times and situations when you felt urgency or experienced leakage. Also, fill out the Medical History section, below. It will give your doctor clues about factors that might be contributing to your condition.

During the Visit

Your doctor will ask questions about your bladder control problems, take your medical history and give you a physical examination. During or in the days following the visit, you'll also have diagnostic tests.

If You Need More

Some OAB symptoms, such as urgency to urinate, may be caused by other medical issues. So you may initially be diagnosed with another urinary disorder, such as the bladder condition interstitial cystitis. A thorough exam and tests should determine the exact cause of symptoms. But if your doctor seems stumped, you may want to see a urologist or a urogynecologist who specializes in urinary tract disorders.

7 Questions Your Doctor May Ask You

  1. What meds are you taking? Some prescription and over-the-counter drugs can dull the nerves and muscles involved
  2. What fluids do you drink regularly? Alcohol, for example, interferes with signals from your brain to your bladder about when to release.
  3. How much fluid do you consume on an average day? Drinking too much water right before bedtime can cause overnight accidents/
  4. What recent surgeries or illnesses have you had? Trauma stemming from pelvic or back surgery, for example, can spur leakage problems.
  5. How many children have you had? Pregnancy and childbirth can weaken pelvic muscles.
  6. Do you remember when you began to first notice bladder symptoms? Even if it was years ago, you can find some relief.
  7. How many times a day do you feel the need to urinate? Going more than eight times a day may mean OAB.

Your Medical History

A variety of medical conditions send nerve signals to the bladder at the wrong time, which can cause urine leakages.

Take a look at this list of diseases and conditions and check off all that apply to you. This can help your doctor better pinpoint the root of your bladder problem and come up with the most effective treatment plan.

  • Bladder tumors or polyps
  • Brain or spinal cord tumor
  • Diabetes
  • Herniated disc
  • Lead, mercury or arsenic poisoning
  • Multiple sclerosis (MS)
  • Myelodysplasia
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Radiation treatment for cancer
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Stroke

Some research also suggests that people with certain conditions may be predisposed to OAB, notably these below. Check all that apply.

  • Attention deficit disorder (ADD)
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

Are there any other medical circumstances that you feel may be affecting your bladder function? if so, tell your doctor.

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at Healthcommunities.com

Published: 17 Mar 2011

Last Modified: 06 Feb 2015