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Useful Terms And Definitions
To Know




Anus. Lower opening of the digestive tract, through which stools are discharged.

Artificial urinary sphincter (AUS). A mechanical device surgically implanted into a patient that consists of a cuff, placed around the urethra or bladder neck, a pressure-regulating balloon, and a pump. The device is used to manually control opening and closing of the urethra.

Autologous. Tissue derived from one’s self. Commonly used to describe “borrowing tissue from another body location to reinforce an operative repair.


Behavioral techniques. Different methods to help "retrain" the bladder to decrease the urgency to urinate that are simple, self-directed, and have no side effects. They are often used in conjunction with other treatments and include: pelvic muscle exercises, biofeedback, and bladder retraining.

Benign tumor. A tissue mass which is not considered “cancer” , that is, it will not invade other tissues or spread to other areas of the body. Usually, this means an excellent prognosis for the patient.

Bilateral. A term describing a condition that affects both sides of the body or two paired organs, such as kidneys.

Biofeedback . A method of teaching that takes information about something happening in the body and presents it in a way that is easy to see, hear, or understand. Biofeedback can helping women understand if they are doing pelvic floor muscle exercises correctly. Two small sensors are placed temporarily on the body near the pelvic floor muscles. They are connected to a computer screen which displays a graph of the muscles as they are being exercised.

Bladder . A hollow muscular balloon shaped organ that stores urine until it is excreted from the body.

Bladder suspension. (Also called bladder neck suspension). A term used to describe a class of operations used to treat a particular type of female urinary incontinence.

Bowel. Another name for the small and large intestines.

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Catheter. A hollow tube inserted within a body orifice for a number of medical purposes.

Clean Intermittent Catheterization (CIC). A technique of emptying a bladder full of urine using a slender rubber or silicon tube passed within the urethra. This technique is commonly used when the bladder is unable to spontaneously contract.

Colon. The large intestine.

Creatinine. A waste product that is filtered from the blood by the kidneys. More importantly, it provides doctors a reliable measure of your kidney’s function.

Cyst . A lump in any organ or tissue that is filled with either fluid or soft material.

Cystocele. A bulging (herniation) of the bladder into vagina.

Cystometry . A dynamic test in which your doctor observes your bladder’s behavior as water is pumped into the bladder. During the testing, a number of factors can be assessed, for example: sensation, urgency, capacity, and cause of urine leakage.

Cystoscopy. A procedure where a slender fiberoptic lens is inserted into the bladder to visually inspect the bladder and urethra lining in order to detect a number of urinary tract problems, e.g., bladder tumors, foreign bodies, blood, stones, etc.

Cystourethrography . Special fluid is instilled into the bladder through the urethra, allowing x-ray pictures to demonstrate the anatomy of the bladder and urethra.

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Detrusor. The smooth muscle in the wall of the urinary bladder that generates contractions to expel urine.

Detrusor instability. (Also known as an unstable bladder or an overactive bladder) Involuntary bladder contractions which occur despite one’s desire to postpone urination.

Detrusor hyperreflexia. This disorder appears much like detrusor instability. However, this is a term used solely in reference to those individuals who have a clearly defined neurologic disease causing the involuntary bladder contractions. A few examples of neurologic disease states that can lead to detrusor hyperreflexia are stroke, Parkinson’s Disease, multiple sclerosis, and Alzheimer’s Disease.

Detrusor sphincter dyssynergia. Damage to the central nervous system can create a lack of coordination between the bladder and the external sphincter muscle of the urethra. As a result, each time the bladder tries to contract, the urethral passage slams shut!! Over time, this repeated discoordination leads to high pressure within the urinary system. The concern here is the risk of eventual damage to kidney function.

Diabetes mellitus. A common form of diabetes in which the body cannot properly store or use glucose (sugar), the body's main source of energy.

Diuretic. [Also commonly known as a water pill] A drug that helps to purge the body of excess fluid. Thus, it is most often used for patients with high blood pressure and/or body fluid retention. In the process of ridding the body of excess fluids, the drug must increase total urine production.

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Electrical stimulation . The use of small doses of electric current to strengthen the pelvic muscles to reduce both stress and urge incontinence. Electrodes are temporarily placed in the vagina or rectum to stimulate nearby muscles. This treatment can stabilize overactive muscles and stimulate contraction of urethral muscles.

Enterocele. Bulging (herniation) of small bowel into vagina.

Enuresis. Bedwetting.

Estrogen. Hormones responsible for the development of female sex characteristics; produced by the ovary.

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Fascia. A sheet of connective tissue covering or binding together body structures.

Gastroenterologist. Doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating diseases of the intestinal or digestive system.

Habit training. A behavioral technique that calls for scheduled toileting at regular intervals on a planned basis. Unlike bladder training, there is no systematic effort to motivate the patient to delay voiding and resist urge.

Iatrogenic. Describes an illness caused by medical treatment. Incontinence can be the result of radiation, medication, or surgery.

Indwelling catheters. Tube devices inserted into the bladder, urinary reservoir, or urinary conduit for a period of time longer than one bladder emptying.

InterStim continence control therapy. A therapy used in treating urge incontinence that is not responsive to simpler measures such as medication. A device, about the size of a pacemaker, is implanted into the region of the lower back where the sacral nerves of the spine travel. It delivers electrical impulses that help regulate bladder function.

Intrinsic sphincter deficiency (ISD). Weakening of the urethra sphincter muscles. As a result of this weakening the sphincter does not function normally regardless of the position of the bladder neck or urethra. This condition is a common cause of stress urinary incontinence.

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Kegel exercises. (Also called pelvic floor muscle exercises) With a dedicated routine, such exercises can strengthen the muscles supporting the bladder, urethra, and other pelvic organs, which can result in better bladder control and less or no leakage.

Kidney. One of a pair of organs located at the back of the abdominal cavity. The kidneys perform two critical functions: 1) filtration of toxins from the bloodstream and elimination within urine, 2) fine tune the body’s blood volume and blood pressure needs.

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Menopause. The period that marks the permanent cessation of menstrual activity, usually occurring between the ages of 40 and 58.

Mixed incontinence. Having both stress and urge incontinence.

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Nocturia. Needing to urinate during hours you normally sleep.

Overactive bladder. Incontinence associated with a strong urge and inability to get to the toliet in time .

Overflow incontinence. The involuntary loss of urine which results from the inability to empty the bladder completely. This in turn overwhelms the bladder and causes excess urine to spill out.

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Pelvic floor muscles. The muscles running from the pubic bone in front to the tail bone in back. They provide support for the organs in the pelvis.

Pelvic muscle exercises. See Kegels

Pelvic organ prolapse . Relaxation or dropping of the female pelvic organs (bladder, uterus, vagina, rectum). Decreased structural support of the pelvic floor and/or vagina that results in bulging of pelvic organs into or out of the vagina (cystocele, rectocele, enterocele, uterine prolapse). Usually it can be identified by a bulge, pressure feeling, or visible lump in the vagina.

Pessary. Vaginal insert similar to the contraceptive diaphragm but used to treat pelvic prolapse. This soft insert can be placed in the vagina to help support the bladder if it has dropped-out of its normal position. Some patients may choose to forgo surgery and use the pessary permanently.

Post-void residual (PVR) volume. A diagnostic test which assesses how well one empties a full bladder. Immediately after urination, the urine remaining in the bladder is measured. This can be measured precisely by withdrawing the residual urine with a catheter; or estimated by using an ultrasound probe over the belly wall.

Proctologist. Doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating diseases of the anus and rectum.

Prolapse . See Pelvic organ prolapse

Prompted voiding. A behavioral technique for use primarily with dependent or cognitively impaired persons. Prompted voiding attempts to teach the incontinent person awareness of his/her incontinence status and to request toileting assistance, either independently or after being prompted by a caregiver.

Pubovaginal sling. One of the surgical methods for treating urinary incontinence that involves placing a "sling" under the bladder and urethra that is anchored to pubic or abdominal structures. The sling is often made of tissue taken from another place in the body. This technique improves sphincter function and decreases bladder neck movement.

Pyelonephritis. Infection of the kidney, usually due to a bacterial infection that originated in the bladder.

Pyuria . The presence of pus in the urine; usually an indication of a urinary tract infection.

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Rectocele. A bulging (herniation) of rectum into vagina.

Rectum. The lower portion of the large intestine, just above the anus.

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Sexually transmitted disease (STD). Infections that are most commonly spread through sexual intercourse or genital contact.

Sling procedures. See Pubovaginal Sling.

Spasm. Involuntary contraction of a muscle, making it incapable of movement.

Sphincter. Circular muscle often found within tubular structures of the body. Relaxation or contraction of a sphincter allows controlled passage of material through the sphincter or vice versa. The sphincters of the urethra and anus work in much the same fashion.

Stool. Solid waste discharge in a bowel movement.

Stress test. A diagnostic test performed as part of urodynamics testing. The patient is asked to strain or cough to reproduce her characteristic urinary leakage while the physician notes what is happening in the body.

Stress urinary incontinence. The involuntary loss of urine during period of increased abdominal pressure. Such events include laughing, sneezing, coughing or lifting heavy objects.

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Tension Free Vaginal Tape (TVT). A newer treatment for stress incontinence using a mesh-like tape that is surgically inserted through the vagina to support the urethra.

Ultrasonography. A noninvasive technique that uses a skin probe emitting sound waves (ultrasound). Thus, visual images of the internal organs, e.g., the urinary tract, can be obtained for the purpose of assessing its position.

Ureter . Tube that carries urine from each of the kidneys to the bladder.

Urethra. A thin tube that carries urine from the bladder out of the body.

Urethral pressure profilometry (UPP) . A technique used to measure pressures in the urethra.

Urethral sphincter mechanism. The part of the urethra that influences storage and emptying of urine in the bladder. When the sphincter relaxes, it allows urine to release. On the other hand, a deficiency of the urethral sphincter mechanism may allow leakage of urine in the absence of normal urination.

Urge/urgency. A strong desire to void which usually cannot be postponed or ignored.

Urge urinary incontinence. Involuntary loss of urine associated with an abrupt and strong desire to void (urgency). Urge incontinence is usually associated with the urodynamic findings of involuntary detrusor contractions or detrusor overactivity.

Urinalysis (U/A). A group of physical and chemical tests done on a sample of urine to check for various disorders, including those of the kidneys and urinary tract.

Urinary incontinence (UI). Involuntary loss of urine sufficient to be a problem. There are several types of Ul, but all are characterized by an inability to control urine leakage.

Urinary tract. Passageway from the kidney through the ureters, bladder and urethra.

Urinary tract infections (UTIs). UTIs are caused by infectious organisms, usually bacteria, that invade the urinary system and multiply, leading to an infection.

Urinate. To pass urine.

Urine. Waste and water removed from the blood by the kidneys, stored in the bladder, and released through the urethra.

Urodynamic tests. Tests designed to determine the anatomic and functional status of the bladder and urethra‘s ability to store urine as well as empty urine such as cystometry, urethral pressure profilometry, or uroflowmetry.

Uroflowmetry. A urodynamic test that measures a number of characteristics about urine flow, eg. speed of flow, duration of flow.

Urogynecologist. A gynecologist who treats bladder and prolapse problems in women.

Urologist. A doctor who specializes in diseases of the urinary tract of women and men, as well as disease of the male reproductive system.

Uterine prolapse. Prolapse (herniation) of the uterus into vagina.

Uterus. Also called the womb, this is where menstrual blood comes from and where fetuses grow.

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Vagina. A woman's genital canal that leads from the uterus to the vulva. This is where babies come out and where menstrual blood leaves the body.

Vaginal cones. Tampon-shaped devices used by women to help identify which muscles to contract when practicing Kegel exercises.

Voiding or bladder diary (record). Also called an "incontinence chart." A record maintained by the patient or caregiver that is used to record the frequency, timing, amount of urine voided each time, and/or other factors associated with the patient's urinary incontinence.

Voiding. Emptying the bladder; urinating; often referred to as "peeing" or "passing water".

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