Urology :: Urinary Incontinence
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What is urinary incontinence (UI)?
Urinary incontinence (UI) is the loss of urine control, or the inability to hold your urine for a reasonable amount of time before reaching a restroom. UI can strike at any age and can be a temporary condition or long term. It can range from the discomfort of slight losses of urine to severe, frequent wetting.
What causes urinary incontinence?
Incontinence can be caused by a variety of concerns and will sometimes be the first or only symptom of a urinary tract infection. It may also be caused by bladder instability, small bladder capacities, poor water intake or other concerns. We carefully assess our patients to figure out the cause of each child’s incontinence. 
What are some of the different types of urinary incontinence?
The following are some of the different types of urinary incontinence:
  • Urge incontinence
    During strong sudden urges to urinate a person is unable to hold their urine long enough to reach a restroom.
  • Stress incontinence
    People with this type of incontinence may leak urine during exercise, coughing, sneezing, laughing, lifting heavy objects or other body movements that put pressure on the bladder. This type of incontinence is more common in adults.
  • Functional incontinence
    Leakage due to a difficulty reaching a restroom in time because of a physical condition.
  • Overflow incontinence
    Leakage that occurs when the quantity of urine produced exceeds the bladder's capacity to hold it.
What are the symptoms of urinary incontinence?
Although each patient may experience symptoms differently, the following are the most common symptoms of urinary incontinence:
  • Inability to urinate when feeling the urge to void.
  • Pain related to filling the bladder and/or pain related to urination.
  • Progressive weakness of the urinary stream with or without a feeling of incomplete bladder emptying.
  • An increased frequency of urination.
  • Needing to rush to the restroom and/or losing urine if you do not get to restroom in time.
  • Problems starting or stopping the flow of urine
  • Urine leakage.
  • Frequent bladder infections.
The symptoms of urinary incontinence may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Our specialists will work carefully to accurately diagnose a child’s incontinence.
What is the treatment for urinary incontinence?
Specific treatment for urinary incontinence will be determined by our urology specialists based on:
  • The child’s age, overall health and medical history.
  • Extent and type of the incontinence.
  • The child’s tolerance for specific medications, procedures or therapies.
  • Expectations for the course of the incontinence.
  • The caregiver’s opinion or preference.
Because there are different types of incontinence, treatments vary and can include:
Behavioral therapies 
Behavioral therapies help the child regain control of his or her bladder and including the following:
  • Bladder training in which the child is taught to relax his or her bladder muscles while urinating. 
  • Toileting assistance in which we work with the child's family to set routines or scheduled toileting, habit training schedules and prompted voiding to empty the bladder regularly to prevent leaking. A child should be urinating about once every two hours, or seven times per day.
  • Increased water intake to ensure the child is hydrated. Clear urine is a sign of good hydration. Children should drink enough water so that their urine is clear every time he or she uses the restroom. Learn more about how much water children should drink.
  • Relieving constipation, as constipation can complicate urinary symptoms greatly. Constipation can cause the bladder to have abnormal contractions and can also introduce bacteria into the urinary system. Learn more about constipation.
Pelvic muscle rehabilitation
The goal of pelvic muscle rehabilitation is to improve pelvic muscle tone and prevent urine leakage. Biofeedback is the most common form of pelvic muscle rehabilitation in which a specialized nurse teaches patients how to use their pelvic floor muscles correctly. A child will use their pelvic floor muscles to play computer games to help increase their control of these muscles. Biofeedback is non-invasive but does require the placement of stickers with sensors onto their skin around the pelvic area. 
While evaluating a child's incontience, we look at the size of the child’s bladder. If the bladder is smallerthan the average for the child’s age, the patient may be placed on medication to help the bladder relax and to grow. 
Most causes of incontinence will not require surgery. If the incontinence is related to structural problems such as an abnormally positioned ureter or sized urethra, a surgery may be recommended.
Diet modifications
Some foods and liquids can be irritating to the bladder and cause concerns of incontinence, urgency, dysuria or frequency. Learn more about bladder irritants.
Children who will be seen in our office for incontinence, urgency of urination or frequency of urination should complete a voiding diary prior to their appointment. Please contact us with any questions. 




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Children's Hospital of Orange County is affiliated with UC Irvine Healthcare and UC Irvine School of Medicine

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