Women of any age should be screened annually for urinary incontinence (UI) and, if indicated, be referred for further evaluation, according to new guidelines issued by the Women’s Preventive Services Initiative (WPSI).

“Urinary incontinence adversely affects health, quality of life, and function for most women at some point in their lives, yet it is underdiagnosed and undertreated in the United States,” the guidelines state. “Standardized screening in routine clinical practice, particularly as part of a preventive health care visit, has the potential to identify affected women and initiate diagnostic evaluations and treatment.”

Screening should include the use of validated assessment instruments that include questions about whether women have symptoms of UI, type and degree of UI, and how symptoms affect their health, function, and quality of life, according to the guidelines, which were published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

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WPSI, which is a national coalition of women’s health professional organizations and patient representatives, wrote that it developed the guidelines after evaluating evidence regarding the benefits and harms of screening for UI in women. “The evaluation included a systematic review of the accuracy of screening instruments and the benefits and harms of treatment.”

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The target audience for their recommendations includes all clinicians who provide preventive health care for women, particularly in primary care settings, the guidelines’ authors noted.


O’Reilly N, Nelson HD, Conry JM, et al. Screening for urinary incontinence in women: A recommendation from the Women’s Preventive Services Initiative. Ann Intern Med. 2018; published online ahead of print.