When you have to go, then GO!

Published 10:00 am Tuesday, December 20, 2022

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Recently one of my friends had a bladder infection. She lives in another town, and as we spoke by phone, I could tell how very uncomfortable she was. We don’t think about our bladders much unless there is a problem or we are stuck in traffic, and we need to find a restroom, but today, I thought it might be helpful to educate you a bit on this vital organ!


The bladder is a hollow, elastic organ at the base of the abdomen that stores urine. With age, it may lose some of its elasticity and cannot hold the same urine volume—reduced elasticity results in more frequent trips to the bathroom. Also, with age, the bladder wall and pelvic floor muscles weaken, making complete voiding more difficult. 

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Dr. Barry Bodie, director of St. Luke’s Urology Associates, says that “urinary tract infections (UTI) are the second most common type of infection in the body and can happen anywhere in the urinary tract.” He says that “more than 50% of women will have at least one UTI in their lifetime.” Because of incomplete voiding issues, older women are more likely to get UTIs as the infection becomes more likely when urine stays in the bladder too long. 


Bladder infection is the most common type of UTI and causes sudden urges to urinate. Kidney Infections often spread from the bladder, which frequently results in severe problems. In addition, frequent kidney infections can permanently damage the kidneys.


Urethra infection (LUTS) is less common but can cause symptoms such as trouble urinating, leaking urine, loss of bladder control, and frequent urination. Aging increases the risk of LUTS in the bladder, urethra, or pelvic floor.


Bladder cancer occurs in the lining of the bladder.




According to Dr. Bodie, there are many behaviors that you can control that affect bladder health. Some of those are:


Weight. Overweight people are at a higher risk of leaking urine.


Smoking. Smokers have more bladder issues and are at an increased risk for bladder cancer. 


Diabetes. Nerve damage caused by diabetes affects bladder control.


Constipation. A buildup of too much stool in the colon can place pressure on the bladder preventing bladder expansion.


Sedentary lifestyle. Activity can reduce bladder problems, constipation, and weight issues.


Medications. Some medications can cause your bladder to leak urine. For example, anti-anxiety medications when you sleep may relax nerves in the bladder, eliminating the urge to use the bathroom.


Alcohol often intensifies bladder problems.


Caffeine can affect how your bladder communicates your need to urinate.


Diet. Some foods make bladder issues worse. Sodas, artificial sweeteners, spicy foods, citrus, and tomato-based foods are a few examples. 


Pelvic Trauma. Childbirth, prostate surgery, and sexual assault damage the muscles and nerves that help control the bladder.




  • Incontinence, the inability to hold urine
  • Needing to urinate more than eight times a day
  • Waking up to urinate several times at night
  • Sudden urges to urinate
  • Pain or burning when urinating
  • Bloody or cloudy urine
  • Strong urges to urinate that produce small amounts of urine
  • Trouble starting or stopping urination
  • Weak stream while urinating
  • Trouble emptying the bladder
  • Mild fever




If you have any of the signs listed earlier in this article, you need to talk to your healthcare provider. Your provider may perform the following tests to identify your bladder problem:


  • A physical exam. Women may include a pelvic exam. Men may include a prostate exam.
  • A urine sample to check for a urinary tract infection (UTI).
  • A cystoscope exam to see the inside of your bladder.
  • Fill the bladder with warm fluid to check the volume your bladder can hold before leaking.
  • An ultrasound to see if you’re fully emptying your bladder.




Dr. Bodie shared that “treatment for bladder issues often includes medications, exercise and other lifestyle changes, and surgery. Bacteria cause most urinary tract infections requiring antibiotics to treat the condition. Drinking lots of fluids and frequent urination aid in recovery.” To minimize discomfort while under treatment for the disorder, Dr. Bodie recommends mild painkillers or heating pads.


Good bladder habits are essential for good bladder health. Drink plenty of water every day, don’t smoke, exercise, and eat right. And when you have to go, then go!


If you have a healthcare topic of interest, send me a note at Michelle.Fortune@slhnc.org. Also, please follow us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or visit StLukesNC.org to learn about top-rated St. Luke’s Hospital and our new world-class services.