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Bladder Problems

Urinary problems may occur following some types of surgery to the bladder, prostate, bowel or womb. These problems may be caused by a number of different factors. The problems may be temporary and can 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.

After surgery or radiotherapy to the 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.

You may need to pass urine more often than usual and may have some pain when you do. These symptoms can be caused by a bladder infection or may become worse if one develops. Let your doctor or nurse know if you develop any pain when passing urine or if your urine is cloudy, smelly or looks as though there may be any blood in it. A urine sample can be tested, and any infection can be treated with antibiotics. 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 are restricted to bed, continence can be more difficult to manage. In most cases wearing continence pads can make this more manageable. Occasionally, 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 relieve discomfort that may occur if you are not able to empty your bladder. Catheter bags need to be chnaged regularly. Your district nurse will support you in managing this. 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.

When to call for help
  • If you suddenly become incontinent or unable to pass urine at all
  • If you are passing urine very frequently or your urine has a strong odour as you may have a urine infection and need antibiotics
  • If you have any blood in your urine you should speak to your GP straight away.
  • If you need practical help to manage the incontinence.
Dealing with incontinence

A wide range of continence aids are available. Your district nurse or a specialist continence nurse can arrange supplies for you. You may need to pay for these products, as provision on the NHS varies depending on the county in which you live. Pads use materials that draw urine away from the body and are designed to protect your skin from moisture damage. For men, there are also conveen sheaths which fit to the penis and collect urine in a small bag (this is different to a catheter).

Tips for dealing with incontinence

Some drinks, such as tea, coffee, cola and alcohol, cause bladder irritation and may make symptoms worse.

  • After any operation that may affect your bladder, build up your physical activities gently. You should usually be able to do all your normal activities within 4-6 weeks.
  • Constipation can make bladder problems worse.
  • Knowing you may need to get to a toilet quickly can make going out a source of worry and embarrassment. The National Key Scheme (NKS), for people with continence problems, allows you to use around 9,000 locked public toilets in the UK. Radar or the Bladder and Bowel Foundation can tell you about the scheme.
If you have an urgent enquiry for our medical and nursing teams (which may be for help and advice) please phone 01892 820515.  This phone number is answered 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.