Doctors usually recommend going to the bathroom to empty your bladder after every three to four hours, except at night when you are sleeping. Dr Cohen Maliro, a clinical medical officer at Diva Medical Centre in Nansana, says urination is a way the body excretes waste fluids.
These fluids include water, uric acid, urea and wastes filtered from the body. The urine stays in the bladder and since the excretion is a continuous process, the bladder reaches a point when it cannot hold it anymore so a signal is sent to the brain and one gets the urge to go and empty it.
“Adults can hold larger amounts of urine compared to children because their bladders are bigger. With advanced age, humans lose control over the bladder (incontinence) but depending on your lifestyle, one may get the urge to urinate for about six times in a day,” he says.
One of the most important functions of the kidneys is to filter excess water and waste out of blood. The excess water and waste is what forms urine which then goes to the bladder.
It is important to stay hydrated but drinking a lot of fluids can make you want to empty your bladder more frequently. The body is not used to holding large volumes of urine.
Children’s bladders are very sensitive and cannot hold urine for longer times but most of them sometimes refuse to go to the toilet because they want to play for a few more minutes.
“The bladder is stimulated to hold a certain amount of urine. The amount it can hold depends on a person’s age, level of hydration, fluid intake and functional bladder capacity. Once the amount is reached, the bladder muscles try to enlarge to hold the extra volume,” Dr Maliro says. You may find yourself wanting to empty your bladder more frequently and usually it may be because there is an underlying problem.
According to Dr Stephen Watya, a urologist at Uro-Care hospital, “Frequent urination can be a sign of a kidney problem, urinary bladder problems, diabetes, pregnancy, or problems with the prostate gland in men.”
Some causes are due to one’s lifestyle such as taking a lot of caffeinated drinks such as soda and taking alcohol. Other causes of frequent urination can include having tumor in the bladder, kidney or bladder stones.
Fighting your body’s urge to urinate for lengthy periods of time can inflict destruction on your bladder.
When a person continuously holds urine, it will come to a time when the muscles can nolonger expand. Eventually, a person will develop a condition known as urinary retention, the inability to initiate urination.
In children, there can be trouble beginning a urine stream, a weak and interrupted urine stream, an urgent need to urinate but actually little urine flows out, a feeling of the need to urinate immediately after you have finished (frequency), constant discomfort in the lower abdomen and urinary tract,” says Maliro
“Urinary retention can lead to bladder damage, says Maliro. If the bladder becomes stretched for long periods, the muscles may be permanently damaged and lose their ability to contract and stop urine. This is the reason some people wet their beds.”
Dr Charles Kiggundu, a gynaecologist at Kawempe General Hospital, says when a person develops urinary retention problems, they will be unable to urinate, have painful and urgent need to urinate, pain and discomfort in the lower abdomen and bloating of the lower abdomen.
He adds that, “Urinating should never be painful. A burning sensation when you urinate can be a sign of a vaginal infection, or a urinary tract infection.”
Dr Watya says any man should get worried if he finds trouble urinating. “If you consistently have trouble urinating, see blood in your urine or semen, or if you experience unexplained erectile dysfunction, these could be symptoms of prostate cancer, you need to see a doctor immediately.”
Urinary retention causes a backward flow of the urine into the kidneys. This causes damage to the kidneys causing kidney failure.
Here, the kidneys fail to adequately filter waste products from the blood. This in turn damages the heart and liver.
“Also, Dr Kiggundu says, “constraining the bladder for too long can cause urinary tract infections because of the buildup of bacteria in the bladder. People who do not drink as much fluids are also likely to develop a UTI because of bacteria buildup in the bladder since there are not as much fluids which would wash out the bacteria that may have gathered in it.”
How long should you hold urine?
A healthy human bladder can hold between 400 to 500 milliliters of urine, or about two cups, before it reaches capacity. Though a healthy bladder can stretch and accommodate larger volumes of urine, it’s important to urinate at regular intervals.