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Talking to Your Patients About Bladder Control

Urinary incontinence affects more than 25 million people in the United States. It affects more women than men – 75% of those affected are women, and 25% are men. Despite the prevalence of the problem, bladder control is an issue patients may be reluctant to discuss. Women wait an average of 6.5 years from the onset of symptoms to see a health care provider for help.

If you think your patient may suffer from this condition, try these suggestions to start a discussion:

  • Ease into the discussion by dismissing myths about urinary incontinence. For example, bladder control is not a necessary part of getting older.
  • Assure your patient he or she is not alone.
  • Tell your patient you are very comfortable discussing this important medical concern.
  • Ask specific questions to prompt your patients to reveal information:
    • Do you often feel the sudden urge to go to the bathroom?
    • Are you leaking urine before you get to the bathroom?
    • Are you going to the bathroom more often than you used to go?
    • Are you waking up from sleep to go?

You can also incorporate a discussion about urinary incontinence into routine office visits. Consider:

  • Adding questions about bladder control to your new patient intake and medical history forms
  • Entering a reminder to patients’ electronic medical records to prompt your inquiry about the condition
  • Including a question about urinary symptoms as part of your patients’ routine medical history update at every visit

Most importantly, please tell your patients this is a real medical problem, and that there are effective ways to treat urinary incontinence.