Living with bladder problems

If you experience bladder/urinary problems there is a chance that your health and quality of life will be significantly impacted. In order to clarify the cause of your symptoms and to rule out anything potentially serious, it is important to consult a healthcare professional. Read more about bladder problems
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Introduction to bladder problems

Bladder problems typically take the form of urinary incontinence (leaking urine) and urinary retention (inability to empty the bladder) and can arise from neurogenic disorders such as spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis and spina bifida. Incontinence and retention can also be age related, or result from an underlying physical disease, caused by a dysfunction in the bladder. Learn how the bladder works.

Urinary incontinence

There are different types of urinary incontinence, each with different symptoms and causes. The most common types of urinary incontinence are stress urinary incontinence (SUI), urge urinary incontinence and mixed urinary incontinence.

  • Stress urinary incontinence (SUI) occurs when the muscles in the pelvic floor, under sudden, increased pressure (stress), are too weak to hold the urethral sphincters closed. The result is an involuntary leakage of urine during everyday activities such as sneezing, coughing, laughing or exercising.
  • Urge urinary incontinence (unstable or overactive bladder) is caused by involuntary, uncontrolled contractions of the muscle in the bladder. This results in a sudden urge to go to the toilet, and involuntary urine leakage before reaching the toilet.
  • Mixed urinary incontinence is a combination of stress urinary incontinence and urge urinary incontinence.
  • Overflow incontinence (a frequent or constant dribble of urine) results from an inability to empty the bladder and occurs in people with a damaged bladder, blocked urethra or neurological damage. With overflow incontinence you may feel as if you never completely empty your bladder. When you try to urinate, you may produce only a weak stream of urine.

Urinary Retention

Urinary retention can be caused by an obstruction in the urinary tract, a bladder muscle weakness or by a neurogenic condition e.g. multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury or spina bifida all of which interfere with signals between the brain and the bladder, resulting in a dysfunction in the urinary system.

Urinary tract infections

When your bladder is not emptying properly there is a risk that the residual urine in the bladder will become infected. This could cause further complications (for example urinary tract infections) if it is not removed regularly. It is important to seek help if you experience symptoms of urinary retention.

Symptoms of urinary problems are different depending on whether you suffer from urinary incontinence or urinary retention. The causes of urinary problems are numerous and can be related to a number of medical conditions including both neurogenic and non-neurogenic disorders. Read more about the causes and symptoms of bladder problems and how to take care of your bladder.

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Symptoms and causes of bladder problems

This section covers the symptoms and causes of bladder problems, including how the bladder works and frequently asked questions.

Symptoms of bladder problems vary depending of whether you suffer from urinary incontinence or retention. Symptoms of bladder problems Bladder/urinary symptoms vary depending of whether you suffer from urinary incontinence or retention. Learn more about symptoms of bladder problems
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Bladder symptoms

Your bladder/urinary symptoms will vary depending on the underlying cause. The basic function of your urinary system is to store urine in your bladder and empty it through your urethra.

Typical symptoms of urinary incontinence

  • Urine leakage
  • Small or large amounts of urine leaking without warning or without feeling the urge to go to the toilet
  • Involuntarily leakage when sneezing, coughing, laughing or exercising
  • A sudden urge to rush to the toilet to urinate
  • The need to get up to pass urine two or more times a night (nocturia)

Do you experience any of the above symptoms?

If you are a man, you can see which male incontinence solutions fits your needs.

If you are a woman, we recommend that you consult a healthcare professional. 

 

Typical symptoms of urinary retention

  • Discomfort 
  • Urgent sense to urinate but inability to start the urine flow
  • Frequent visits to toilet
  • Dribble due to overflow incontinence
  • Weak flow
  • Bloated lower abdomen

Do you experience any of the above symptoms?

Find out more about which products are available.

 

When to get in contact with your healthcare professional

Many people who experience bladder issues are hesitant to see their healthcare professional, because they find it embarrassing. In order to clarify what is causing the symptoms and to rule out anything potentially serious, it is important to consult a healthcare professional.

Causes of urinary problems are many and can be related to a number of medical conditions including both neurogenic and non-neurogenic disorders. Read more about causes of bladder problems and how to take care of your bladder.

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Most common causes of bladder problems Causes of bladder problems A number of medical conditions can affect the bladder and ability to urinate. Symptoms depend on the underlying cause. Most common causes of bladder problems
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Causes of bladder problems

Medical conditions causing bladder/urinary problems are generally categorised either as neurogenic or non-neurogenic. Some conditions can cause urinary retention or may completely prevent the bladder from emptying and require catheterisation. Some conditions can cause urinary incontinence in which case a collecting device (urisheath and bag) offers a comfortable solution for men, or incontinence pads for women.

Neurogenic conditions causing urinary problems

Conditions causing damage to the nervous system include: 

Symptoms vary depending on where the neurological damage occurs and how severe it is.

Other medical conditions causing bladder issues

An example of a non-neurogenic medical condition causing urinary problems is Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH) also known as enlarged prostate. Men diagnosed with BPH have an enlarged prostate which can have an impact on their daily life as urinary symptoms may appear as the prostate grows. Symptoms can become very bothersome and if severe, an intermittent catheter, medicine or an operation may be needed.  

  • Weakening of the pelvic floor due to age or childbirth
  • BPH (enlarged prostate)
  • Prostate or bladder surgery
  • Bladder cancer
  • Botox injections of the bladder to manage urinary incontinence
  • Aging

Find out more

Read more about neurogenic bladder and how to take care of your bladder.

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What is neurogenic bladder? What is neurogenic bladder? If normal conscious control of the bladder is impaired this is generally called neurogenic bladder. Learn more about neurogenic bladder
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What is neurogenic bladder?

The result of having lost proper control from the central nervous system due to a neurological disorder is a neurogenic bladder.

Neurogenic bladder may occur as a consequence of:

A neurogenic bladder means that the normal process of filling and emptying the bladder is not working properly, so the bladder either fills without proper emptying or it empties unexpectedly. Urinary symptoms vary depending on where the neurological damage occurs and how severe it is.

Different types of neurogenic bladder

A neurogenic bladder may be retentive, meaning it retains urine which could cause infection or other serious problems, or it may be overactive. An overactive bladder is typically caused by spasms of the muscles of the bladder and mainly associated with symptoms of urge incontinence.

Find out more

The symptoms of a neurogenic bladder must be properly managed. If the bladder has lost its inherent ability to empty the recommended solution is catheterisation. If the bladder empties unexpectedly the recommended solution is a urine drainage bag to avoid wetting. Read more about symptoms and how to take care of your bladder.

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Urinary problems are typically caused by a dysfunction in the urinary system. How the bladder and urinary system works The bladder and urinary system includes all the parts of the body that produce and store urine. Bladder problems are typically caused by a dysfunction in the urinary system. Learn how the urinary system works
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How the bladder works

Urine is produced in the kidneys, and flows from the kidneys into the bladder via the ureters. The bladder stores urine until the urethra carries it out of the body. This flow, from the bladder to the urethra, is controlled by the urethral sphincters, which open and close the bladder outlet. The sphincters, in turn, are controlled by the pelvic floor muscles. The healthy bladder expels urine in a controlled, usually voluntary fashion, and the average person urinates 4-8 times a day. 

 

Bladder activity is regulated by the central and peripheral nervous systems. You feel the need to urinate when the stretch receptors in the bladder tell the brain that the bladder is full. However, with bladder dysfunction, you may not be able to inhibit the urge to pass urine. Problems with the bladder may result in urinary incontinence or urine retention.

Urinary incontinence

Urinary incontinence is the involuntary leakage of urine. There are different types of urinary incontinence, each with different symptoms and causes.

Urinary retention

Urinary retention can be caused by an obstruction in the urinary tract, a bladder muscle weakness or by a neurogenic condition e.g. multiple sclerosisspinal cord injury or spina bifida all of which interfere with signals between the brain and the bladder, resulting in a dysfunction in the urinary system.

Neurogenic bladder

Neurological conditions can cause damage to the nervous system affecting the bladder and resulting in urinary retention (see above) or an overactive bladder which has symptoms of both urge incontinence and leakage. 

Find out more

Learn more about neurogenic bladdersymptoms and causes of urinary retention and urinary incontinence.

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There are a number of available options to manage urinary problems depending on your condition. Taking care of your bladder There are a number of available options to manage bladder problems depending on your condition. How to take care of your bladder
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Taking care of your bladder

Bladder problems must be properly managed, if left untreated they could result in serious health issues. 

There are many options available to help manage bladder problems:

  • Pelvic floor exercises
  • Bladder retraining
  • Catheters
  • Collecting devices
  • Lifestyle changes
  • Medication
  • Surgery

Pelvic floor exercises

Pelvic floor exercises are designed to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles to help reduce urinary incontinence.

  • Slowly contract and lift the pelvic floor muscles and hold the position for five seconds, then release
  • Quickly contract and release the pelvic floor muscles

You will need to do the exercises regularly and it may take several months before you see a significant improvement.

Bladder retraining

Bladder retraining to help reduce urinary incontinence aims to gradually stretch the bladder so that it can hold larger volumes of urine.

Catheters

Clean intermittent catheterisation (CIC) is an effective bladder management technique based on the regular and complete emptying of the bladder by using a catheter. People who catheterise to empty their bladder typically need to do so 4-6 times a day.  Learn more about Coloplast catheters for men and women).

Collecting systems (for men)

For men who leak urine (male incontinence), urisheaths are an effective and comfortable solution. The urisheath is worn over the penis and is connected to a urine bag fastened to the leg. Learn more about Coloplast products for male incontinence.

Lifestyle changes

For some people managing symptoms may include lifestyle changes, such as modifying the diet to reduce constipation and reducing the consumption of caffeinated beverages. Timing fluid intake at certain times can also be helpful so the need to urinate is more convenient and doesn’t coincide with excursions in public or sleeping at night.

Medication

Drugs are prescribed for all types of incontinence, but they are generally most useful for urge incontinence, particularly when combined with pelvic floor exercises and bladder training. Stress incontinence is usually managed without medication.

Surgery

A variety of surgical procedures are available for the treatment of bladder problems. Deciding which procedure, if any, you use depends on the type and cause of incontinence.

Find out more

A number of Coloplast products are available to help manage bladder problems:

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Frequently asked questions about bladder problems Frequently asked questions about bladder problems Find answers to the most common questions about bladder problems and management. FAQs about bladder problems
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Frequently asked questions

This FAQ is intended as a guide to commonly asked questions. Please always consult your healthcare professional regarding any bladder issues you are experiencing. 

What is urinary incontinence?

Urinary incontinence is the medical term for being unable to control the release of urine. 

What is neurogenic bladder? 

Neurogenic bladder refers to a condition where neurological damage has led to bladder dysfunction.

What are the signs and symptoms of urinary incontinence?

Some typical signs and symptoms include:

  • Involuntary leakage of urine without warning or without feeling the need to go to the toilet
  • Involuntary leakage of urine when sneezing, coughing, laughing or exercising
  • A sudden urge to rush to the toilet either before or when leaking urine
  • The need to get up to pass urine two or more times a night (nocturia)

What causes urinary incontinence?

Potential causes include:

  • Damage or weakness to the muscles in the pelvic floor (most commonly due to pregnancy and childbirth)
  • Problems with the control of the bladder muscle (bladder overactivity and bladder underactivity)
  • Neurogenic conditions that affect the voluntary release of urine (e.g. spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis or  spina bifida)
  • Enlarged prostate gland 
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Type 2 diabetes

Is urinary incontinence a natural part of aging?

Although incontinence becomes more common with advancing age, it is not just older people who are affected. Effective solutions are available, so it should not stop you from living a full and active life, whatever your age. 

Can I still have a social life with urinary incontinence?

It is possible to manage incontinence effectively. A doctor or nurse should be able to help find a solution that makes it possible to continue a social life and everyday activities. 

Can urinary incontinence be treated?

Most types of incontinence can be treated or improved through lifestyle changes, pelvic floor exercises, bladder training, medication or surgery. If a cure is not possible,or a temporary solution is required, products such as catheters, urisheaths (for men) or absorbent products can be very helpful. 

What is a catheter?

A catheter can be used to ensure the bladder is completely emptied. It is a slim, flexible tube that is inserted into the bladder through the urethra enabling the urine to drain.

Why is it important to empty my bladder?

If your bladder is not emptied regularly, it can cause urinary tract infections. These start in the bladder but can move back to the kidneys and cause serious renal damage. Even small amounts of urine left in the bladder can cause infections. 

Can I drink less so that I do not have to empty my bladder so often?

No. It is very important that you drink enough to keep the urinary system healthy. An adult should drink approximately 1500 ml per day and take in a total of about 3 litres including liquids in the daily diet.

How can I tell if I have an urinary tract infection?

Symptoms of a urinary tract infection vary and may be subtle. They include:

  • Dark-coloured and strong-smelling urine
  • Blood in the urine
  • Cloudy urine
  • Fever/sweating
  • Bladder spasms
  • Increased muscle contractions in your leg

If you have any of the above symptoms, talk to your doctor or nurse. 

What if I get frequent urinary tract infections?

Using an intermittent catheter increases the risk of urinary tract infections. However, compared to other catheter types such as permanent (indwelling) catheters, intermittent catheters are less likely to cause urinary tract infections.

How can I prevent catheter related urinary tract infections?

There are ways to reduce the risk of urinary tract infections from catheters:

  • Ensure you have clean hands and equipment when catheterising
  • Drink sufficient amount of fluid during the day to wash out the urinary tract
  • Make sure that the bladder is fully emptied every time you catheterise
  • Speak to your healthcare professional about your catheterisation frequency and technique

Find out more

View a guide of how to catheterise.

Learn more about products for managing urinary incontinence

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Travelling as a catheter user

Experiencing new things is often the reason for travelling - but when it comes to feeling secure and comfortable, it would be nice to keep the surprises to a minimum. Below are some tips and tricks that might help you before and during your holiday.

Travelling with catheters Preparation is key Travelling can be very rewarding, and making sure you’re prepared can ensure a relaxing vacation. Read some travel tips for catheter users
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Travel tips for catheter users

Travel tips for catheter users
  • Order extra products well in advance, so that you are sure that you have them on time – and that you have enough. You may want to divide them into different bags in case any luggage becomes lost during your travels
  • Bring your travel certificate as this provides information in several different languages. We would also recommend noting down the name of your product(s) on the travel certificate for reference. Download your free travel certificate.
  • Pack a small travel bag to keep the most essential supplies with you when you are traveling or out and about.
  • Check out all the places you want to visit to see if they have toilets, especially if you require wheelchair-accessible facilities. Check online or give them a call if you are in doubt. Also check if it is common to pay a fee for using toilets and make sure to have small change in local currency on you. Download the WheelMate App for free to find the toilet nearest to you.
  • Be aware of different climates, as catheters stored in colder temperatures can feel stiffer. On the other hand, if your catheters are stored in an especially warm environment, they may feel softer.
  • Drinking enough water is very important, as well as trying to eat food that has a high fibre content. If you are not sure about the quality of the drinking water, buy bottled water.
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