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Medical History and Physical Examination for Urinary Incontinence in Men

Examination Overview

A medical history is the most important part of the examination for urinary incontinence. During the medical history, your doctor will ask you to describe:

  • How long you have had incontinence.
  • What, if anything, you are doing (laughing, coughing, or changing posture) when you experience incontinence.
  • How often you have the problem and how much urine you lose.
  • Risk factors you may have, such as ongoing (chronic) bladder infections or prostatitis, that could lead to incontinence.
  • Your eating habits.
  • Your bowel habits, to find out whether chronic constipation may be contributing to incontinence.
  • Prescription and non-prescription medicines you take.
  • Treatments for previous problems affecting your urinary tract.
  • Your use of pads or other protective devices to control urine loss.
  • How much caffeine, alcohol, and other fluids you drink daily.

Your doctor will ask questions about your general health and specific questions about your urinary and reproductive tracts, intestines, and nervous system to find clues to the cause of the incontinence. He or she will also ask about conditions that are related to incontinence, including:

Symptoms and conditions that often are related to incontinence also will be investigated, such as:

A physical examination often includes a thorough abdominal, rectal, and genital examination. The doctor:

  • Looks for growths such as tumours in the pelvic area.
  • Checks for an enlarged prostate or reduced anal muscle tone.
  • Checks to see whether a nervous system problem is causing muscle weakness or loss of reflexes.

Why It Is Done

A history and physical examination are usually done for everyone who sees the doctor about urinary incontinence.



  • No growths or physical abnormalities are found.
  • The prostate is not enlarged, and there is no evidence of prostate cancer.
  • There is no abnormal muscle weakness or reflex loss because of a nerve problem.
  • You do not have constipation.


What To Think About

The medical history is very important and can determine some causes of incontinence.

Be certain to tell your doctor about all prescription and non-prescription medicines you are taking.

The physical examination sometimes can identify abnormalities in the prostate, abdomen, or nervous system that may be causing incontinence or contributing to it. Findings from the physical examination help your doctor know whether further testing is needed.

Complete the medical test information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you prepare for this test.


By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Primary Medical Reviewer Brian D. O'Brien, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Avery L. Seifert, MD - Urology
Last Revised September 12, 2012
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