September is Urology Awareness Month and this year’s focus is centred on bladder health - an area we don’t often think about until we encounter problems and seek out help.
Our experts in the urology team here at NCIC have advice and guidance about common bladder issues.
Helen Lanka, a Urology Clinical Nurse Specialist said: “The function of the bladder is to act as a reservoir to store urine which has been filtered by the kidneys and is waste product that the body does not require.
“To maintain adequate and good fluid hydration, the cells in the body need water, however it can be difficult to know how much fluid people should drink. An idea to know if the body is well hydrated is to monitor the colour of your urine. If your urine is clear to pale yellow, the body is well hydrated, however, if your urine is dark yellow and concentrated then the body is less so. A good fluid intake to aim for is at least 2 litres daily.
“Passing blood when urinating can be alarming, yet there can be easy explanations to why this may happen. It can also be an indicator of bladder cancer or other urological cancers so it’s important that any visible blood is investigated and you see your GP straight away, even if it is a one – off episode.”
Other issues people can have with their bladder can be urinary tract infections and urine incontinence. Urine incontinence is when the bladder does not have full control and fluid slips out involuntarily, which can make people feel embarrassed and self-conscious potentially affecting their wellbeing.
Helen’s colleague, Janette Taylor, Urology Clinical Nurse Specialist at NCIC, said: “There are different types of incontinence, however the more common ones that people are most aware of is when urine leakage occurs if people have an urgent desire to go to the toilet and cannot hold on to their urine, or when people cough, sneeze or do exercise. Anyone who has difficulty holding on to their urine, should go to their GP who can make the proper assessment of the situation and refer to the appropriate healthcare professional. Treatments for urine incontinence can alter people’s life, give back their dignity and can make a big difference to daily living activities. There is no need to suffer in silence. “
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are usually caused by bacteria from poo entering the urinary tract.
The bacteria enter through the tube that carries pee out of the body (urethra).
Women have a shorter urethra than men. This means bacteria are more likely to reach the bladder or kidneys and cause an infection.
Things that increase the risk of bacteria getting into the bladder include:
- not drinking enough fluids
- not keeping the genital area clean and dry
- having sex
- conditions that block the urinary tract – such as kidney stones
- conditions that make it difficult to fully empty the bladder – such as an enlarged prostate in men and constipation in children
- urinary catheters (a tube in your bladder used to drain urine)
- having a weakened immune system – for example, people with diabetes or people having chemotherapy
How to prevent urinary tract infections (UTIs)
There are some things you can try to help prevent a urinary tract infection (UTI) happening or prevent it returning.
- wipe from front to back when you go to the toilet
- keep the genital area clean and dry
- drink plenty of fluids, particularly water – so that you regularly pee during the day and do not feel thirsty
- wash the skin around the vagina with water before and after sex
- pee as soon as possible after sex
- promptly change nappies or incontinence pads if they're soiled
- do not use scented soap
- do not hold your pee in if you feel the urge to go
- do not rush when going for a pee – try to fully empty your bladder
- do not wear tight synthetic underwear, such as nylon
- do not drink lots of alcoholic drinks, as they may irritate your bladder
- do not have lots of sugary food or drinks, as they may encourage bacteria to grow
- If you are prone to UTIs you may want to consider avoiding using a diaphragm or spermicide as your form of contraception. These can introduce bacteria into the area and can kill off healthy bacteria that keep the problem germs in check.
Janette added: “Urinary tract infections can also be disruptive and can require frequent visits to the GP surgery or hospital. If you suspect you have an infection, take a sample of urine to the doctor’s surgery so this can be sent for analysis. Symptoms can range from fever, pain when passing urine, frequent trips to the toilets, urgent desire to pass water, smelly, cloudy or debris in the urine. Drink plenty of water to flush the bladder as this will help to get rid of the infection.”
If you have any concerns about bladder health and conditions look at Bladder Health UK’s website as well as the NHS and discuss any issues with your GP.