Is Your Bladder Healthy?

Urologist, Dr. Marissa Theofanides Explains the Difference Between a Healthy and Unhealthy Bladder

Most people don’t take the time to really think about their bladder but given the fact the average person makes over a liter of urine a day, urination is a huge part of our daily lives. When things go wrong such as incontinence, over or underactive bladder, infections or painful bladder syndrome, bladder issues can have a huge impact on our quality of life. November is healthy bladder month and the perfect time to talk about what it means to have a healthy bladder and some easy changes you can make to keep it that way!

What does it mean to have a healthy bladder?

Each person is different and there is a good amount of variation from person to person but in general you should be going around every 3 to 4 hours, and have clear urine that flows easily without pain or leakage. 

What are some common symptoms that you may have a bladder problem?

  • Needing to go very frequently or a very intense sense of “I gotta go!”. These can be signs of an overactive bladder or a bladder that isn’t doing a great job at getting all of the urine out.
  • Never getting the sensation you need to go. This may be a sign of an underactive bladder or issues with the nerve signaling between your bladder and brain.
  • Foul smell, discoloration, cloudiness, or blood in the urine. Infections, kidney stones, urine abnormalities, and in rare cases certain cancers can cause changes in the urine’s appearance.
  • Frequent infection. This can be a sign of a structural, hormonal issue or habit issue.
  • Leaking urine. Stress incontinence and overactive bladder or a combination of both can cause involuntary leakage.
  • Having to wake up to urinate. Conditions like an enlarged prostate, overactive bladder and over production of urine can cause you to wake up several times a night.
  • Pain with bladder filling or emptying. Urination should never hurt, this may be a sign of infection, inflammation, or muscle spasm.
  • Having to push or strain to get the urine out. This can be a sign of urinary blockage or underactive bladder.

What are things you can do at home to help keep your bladder healthy?

  • Don’t hold your urine for long periods of time, this can weaken your bladder with time, try and aim to go every 3-4 hours maximum.
  • Drink at least 2 liters of water a day (6-8 glasses).
  • Avoid caffeinated beverages such as coffee, tea, soda, or drinks that use artificial sweeteners.
  • Avoid alcohol, it acts not only as a bladder irritant but also makes you produce more urine which can worsen certain bladder conditions.
  • Avoid constipation, your bladder and colon are neighbors and if you’re having trouble with your bowel movements it may have a big effect on your bladder function as well.
  • Some people find that spicy foods, tomato based products, citrus and chocolate can make bladder symptoms worse, avoiding or minimizing these items can help with several bladder conditions.
  • Exercise can be very helpful, conditions  like stress incontinence can be improved with exercises such a Kegel’s, other painful bladder conditions can be treated with more relaxing stretches, it’s always important to discuss with your doctor what’s best for your specific condition.
  • Try and avoid eating and drinking 2 hours before bed, it will help you get up less and have a better night’s sleep.
  • Maintain a healthy weight, carrying around a significant amount of extra weight can place pressure on your bladder causing you to go more frequently and have a greater sense of urgency.

What treatments are available for bladder issues?

It’s important to talk to you doctor and get to the bottom of what’s going on. They may do tests such as urine tests, an ultrasound of your bladder and kidneys or in some cases specific tests to assess the function of the muscles and nerves of your bladder. There are many options depending on your issue to help manage symptoms including medications, office procedures, physical therapy, and in certain cases surgery.  Again, every person is different and there are many different bladder conditions that can arise, so always check with your healthcare professional before starting any type of treatment.

Credit: Crystal Run Healthcare.

Marissa C.Theofanides, MD, earned her Medical Degree from Weill Cornell Medical College in New York, NY and completed her Residency in Urology at Columbia University in New York, NY. Dr. Theofanides provides general and advanced urology care to patients in West Nyack.