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 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.
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 nurse or doctor 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’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.
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 what’s available on the NHS varies in different parts of the country. Pads use materials that draw urine away from the body. They are small and easily hidden, but secure enough to prevent leakage. For men, there are also sheaths for the penis and dribble pouches.
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.
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.