Updated 05 September 2019

What your bladder is trying to tell you about your health

We tend to disregard our bladder health until something goes wrong. Here are signs that may indicate that your bladder isn't as healthy as it should be.

Your bladder health is often overlooked until it’s too late. In a previous Health24 article, we discussed how the bladder can be kept healthy as we grow older.

But since the function of the bladder is so important for kidney health and for preventing urinary incontinence and infections of the urinary tract, it’s important to be able to spot signs that something is not okay.

1. You suddenly need to urinate much more than usual

Loo habits differ from person to person depending on our age, gender and how much water we drink in general. The number of times you need to go during the day is a good indication of your general hydration and bladder health.

According to Dr Ferdi Marais, a Cape Town urologist, a normal adult urinates about 300–400ml five to six times a day. If you take in more fluid than normal you will naturally pass more urine, but according to Dr Marais, urinating more than six times a day is abnormal.

If you suddenly find yourself passing urine a lot more than usual, there are a number of conditions that may be the cause. If your frequent urinating is also accompanied by excessive thirst, sudden weight loss and fatigue, you might want to get your blood sugar tested as these symptoms may indicate diabetes.

More urination than usual may also signal an overactive bladder, a common condition that can be treated.

Take our quiz to see if your urination habits are normal.

2. Your urine is a weird colour

Foods such as beetroot and rhubarb and some medications can give urine a rosy tint, but if you spot pinkish or reddish pee and you haven’t eaten any of the above foods, it might be blood – and that’s always a cause for concern. You should see your doctor right away as blood in your urine (haematuria) can signal a number of conditions, such as a urinary tract infection, kidney infection, kidney stones, bladder stones, a kidney injury or bladder cancer.

If your urine is a dark amber or orange, this may signal severe dehydration. Increase your water intake, and if the dark colour persists, see your doctor.

3. You suddenly leak urine when you cough, sneeze or laugh

Sudden urinary incontinence can be a sign of various conditions and the sooner you talk to your doctor about it, the sooner you can start treating and managing the problem.

According to Dr Margaret Fockema, a general practitioner with an interest in incontinence, the most common cause of incontinence is a condition called overactive bladder. But sometimes, when urinary incontinence appears out of the blue, it may signal a more serious underlying condition such as a tumour or cancer in the pelvic region.

See your doctor, especially when you have a tingling, numb sensation in your legs, back or groin area as this may indicate nerve damage.

4. Your bladder never feels empty, even after urination

If you frequently feel an uncomfortable amount of bladder pressure, even after you passed urine, it might be a urinary tract infection or another underlying condition. 

In more common cases, the constant pressure might also be a sign of overactive bladder. Speak to your doctor about treatment recommendations and how to relieve discomfort.

5. It hurts when you pee

Dysuria is a condition where you experience sharp, burning, stinging pain or discomfort when urinating. According to Dr Thomas Michels, almost 3% of adults older than 40 experience dysuria, and it’s the most common sign of a UTI.

Image credit: iStock


Ask the Expert

Incontinence Expert

Dr Prenevin Govender completed his MBChB at the University of Cape Town in 2001. He obtained his Fellowship of the College of Urologists in 2009 and graduated with distinction for a Masters in Medicine from the University of Cape Town in 2010. His special interests include laparoscopic, pelvic organ prolapse and urinary incontinence surgery. He consults full-time at Life Kingsbury Hospital in Claremont.

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