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Incontinence

Updated 13 August 2020

Can your bladder burst if you hold in urine for too long?

Ever found yourself needing the loo so badly that you feel as if your bladder might literally burst? In rare cases, under certain conditions, it is possible.

  • While the bladder is capable of holding up to half a litre of urine, it's not advisable to resist the urge to pee
  • In some cases, where the bladder suffered trauma, spontaneous eruption is possible
  • Luckily, these cases are rare

Have you ever needed to hold in a pee for so long that it felt like your bladder was about to burst? For optimal bladder health, we are encouraged to pee as soon as we feel the urge, as holding in urine can cause unnecessary pressure on the pelvic floor and even lead to urinary tract infections.

But is it possible for your bladder to burst when holding urine for too long?

Rare, yet painful and serious

In rare cases, the bladder may rupture, causing urine to pour into the abdomen, which is a medical emergency. This can happen in someone who has had major surgery or cancer, major radiation in the bladder, or when the bladder has been partly removed, according to Dr Scott Eggener, a urologist at the University of Chicago.

Medical cases of spontaneous urinary bladder rupture caused by holding in urine for too long are usually a result of previous trauma and injury to the bladder.

A case report of a 23-year old male who suffered a ruptured bladder revealed that he had a urethral stricture, caused by a car accident. Another paper published in Statpearls revealed that ruptured bladders and bladder injuries are usually caused as a result of direct trauma to the bladder or abdomen, usually through car crashes.

According to this research, an adult’s empty bladder is usually protected within the pelvis bone, but a full bladder extends, making it more vulnerable to injuries.

There is, however, another cause of ruptured bladders – binge drinking. According to a report in the BMJ, three women were admitted to a hospital in West Yorkshire, England. They suffered lower abdominal pain after drinking an excessive amount of alcohol.  After examination, the doctors discovered bladder rapture in these women. Excessive alcohol is a likely culprit. Not only does it fill up the bladder and serves as a diuretic, but at the same time, it dulls the urge that you need to pee – which can cause you to hold in your urine for much longer.

Not likely under normal circumstances

While it’s not recommended to hold in a pee, it’s very unlikely that your healthy bladder will spontaneously erupt. You’ll probably involuntarily leak (in simple terms, wet yourself) before you’ll experience a burst bladder.

There are times when we have no choice but to wait it out, including long car rides and meetings, but to avoid any risk of bladder infections, it’s always best to go when nature calls.

READ | What your bladder is trying to tell you about your health 

READ | 4 examples of incontinence as something serious

READ | What your urine colour may mean 

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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