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Urge Incontinence in Women

Urge incontinence is characterized by loss of urine that is associated with a sudden, strong desire to urinate that cannot be postponed. Other symptoms include a need to urinate frequently and waking often during the night to urinate. The condition is also known as overactive bladder.

Some people manage to avoid urine loss by urinating frequently, but find the continual need to have a bathroom available restrictive to their lifestyles.

Treatment for urge incontinence may include behavioral treatments such as pelvic muscle exercises, medication, electrical stimulation or Botox injections.

The main symptom is loss of urine associated with a sudden, strong desire to urinate that cannot be postponed. Women may describe mounting pressure or sudden loss of urine in a rush to reach the toilet. Often, this occurs with certain triggering events, such as fumbling with the keys to open the front door, the sound or sensation of running water on the hands, or exposure to sudden cold.

Other symptoms include a need to urinate frequently and waking often during the night to urinate.

If you have incontinence, keeping a urinary diary — a record of your daily urination, urine accidents and fluid intake — can help us make the proper diagnosis and decide on the appropriate treatment.

At your first visit to the UCSF Women's Continence Center, your provider will ask questions about your general health, your history of incontinence, past surgeries, illnesses and medications you are taking. The provider will also perform a physical examination, including a pelvic exam. In addition, a urine sample will be tested. If your problem is complex, additional tests may be done at a later visit.

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Behavioral Treatments

Behavioral treatments are simple, self-directed, have no side effects and are often used in conjunction with other treatment options. They have proven effective for many women and work well for certain types of incontinence. They include:

  • Bladder Training — The goals of bladder training are to increase the intervals between emptying your bladder and the amount of fluid your bladder can hold. This training can help diminish the sense of urgency and leakage.

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Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Medical Center.

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UCSF Clinics & Centers

Women's Health Center

Women's Continence Center
2356 Sutter St., Fifth Floor
San Francisco, CA 94143-1754
Phone: (415) 885-7788
Toll-free: (877) 366-8532
Fax: (415) 353-9550
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