Urinary problems may occur following some types of surgery to the bladder|, prostate|, bowel| or womb|. These problems may be caused by damage to the valve that controls the flow of urine from the bladder (urinary sphincter), or by nerve damage in the pelvis. The problems are often temporary and improve over weeks or months. If you have urinary problems after surgery, it may help to do exercises called pelvic floor or Kegel exercises. These help to retrain the muscles involved in bladder control. A continence nurse can tell you about these, or you can read more on the Bladder and Bowel Foundation| website.
After surgery to their prostate, some men have urinary problems due to an overactive bladder|. Your doctor can prescribe drugs to help correct this. Most men find that their symptoms improve with time. Rarely however, if symptoms don’t improve over several months, some men may be offered surgery to improve bladder control.
Bladder problems may be caused by a cancer pressing on or blocking the tube that urine passes through out of the bladder (urethra). This can lead to incontinence (loss of bladder control) or retention (when urine can’t flow out of the bladder). Rarely, a tumour pressing on the nerves in the spine can cause nerve damage, leading to incontinence.
You may need to pass urine more often than usual and may have some pain when you do. These symptoms can also be caused by a bladder infection, or may become worse if one develops. Let your nurse or doctor know if you develop any pain when passing urine or if your urine is cloudy or smelly. A urine sample can be tested, and any infection can be treated with antibiotics.
If you have bladder problems, it can help to drink enough water to keep your urine a clear or pale yellow colour. It may also help to avoid drinking too much alcohol or drinks that contain caffeine, such as coffee, tea and cola.
Continence problems can occur if you find it difficult to get out of a chair or bed so can’t get to a toilet quickly. Try to have your bed as close to a toilet as possible, or have a commode, bedpan or urine bottle close by.
If you’re restricted to bed, incontinence can be more difficult to cope with. In this case, or if you have trouble emptying your bladder, a thin flexible plastic tube (catheter) can be inserted into your bladder which will continuously drain urine away. This can prevent the discomfort that may occur with severe incontinence. Catheters need to be changed regularly - about once a month or more often. During the day, if you’re up and about, a catheter bag can be attached to your leg and hidden under clothes. Otherwise, bags and tubes can easily be covered by bedclothes or blankets.