How to know if something is wrong with your bladder
You may find you often get up in the middle of the night to wee. Or, perhaps you notice your urine colour is a “strong” yellow or maybe it’s a completely different colour, like green. Or, like some people, you may find it impossible to wee when there are people around. (Hello, public restrooms.)
These bladder problems – which sometimes can be completely normal or sometimes a cause for concern – are very common. However, you might be too shy to ask your doctor about them. So we checked in with several medical experts who answer your most embarrassing bladder questions, from urinary tract infections to urine colour.
You probably don’t have a “small bladder”
Bladders don’t vary much in size; yours might just act small. When it comes to how often you run to the bathroom, there are two things to consider: actual bladder capacity (how much fluid your bladder physically holds) and functional bladder capacity (how long you wait before weeing). “Sometimes patients will sense bladder fullness at an earlier time than others, and that’s when they say, ‘I have a small bladder,’” says Dr Benjamin Brucker, assistant professor of urology, obstetrics, and gynaecology at NYU Langone Medical Center. “You might get that message to wee very soon after it’s empty and starting to fill.”
If you find yourself with bladder problems, like needing to wee often, talk to your doctor. He or she may treat you for overactive bladder by suggesting you minimise bladder irritants (such as coffee, alcohol and artificial sweeteners) or start pelvic floor exercises such as Kegel exercises to strengthen the muscles that help you “hold it.”
Let’s get something straight about incontinence
It’s not just leaking. There are two different main kinds of incontinence, both of which can be treated by doctors. Stress urinary incontinence occurs when you laugh, sneeze, cough, or do anything else to exert pressure on your pelvic floor. Urge incontinence is when you suddenly and unexpectedly have to urinate, even if you recently emptied your bladder. With both types of incontinence, obesity is a risk factor. In stress incontinence, obesity increases intra-abdominal pressure; meanwhile, metabolic shifts are believed to affect urgency incontinence. While stress incontinence is related to genetics and childbearing, urgency incontinence is commonly seen in diseases such as diabetes or Parkinson’s.
Don’t be embarrassed to talk to your doctor, who may recommend behavioural techniques (such as scheduled toilet trips and diet management), pelvic floor muscle exercises, medications, or even treatments such as injections to help keep the urethra closed.