How to manage bladder problems and symptoms

Bladder Problems, Support & Advice

Jan Chaseley, Benenden Hospital’s Clinical Nurse Specialist answers your questions on the most common bladder problems.

How can symptoms related to bladder problems be managed?

Simple lifestyle changes can make a difference: avoiding drinks containing caffeine, which can irritate the bladder and fizzy drinks that can contain caffeine and artificial sweeteners. Alcoholic drinks and acid in fruit juices can make problems worse. But drinking too little can make the bladder more prone to infection.

“When you are not drinking enough, the bladder gets used to holding smaller amounts of urine and can become overly sensitive," says Jan.

Being overweight can also put excessive pressure on the bladder and pelvic floor muscles, so weight loss can be beneficial."

What can irritate the bladder?

  • Drinks that contain caffeine - as mentioned above
  • Fizzy drinks, especially the “lite” or “diet” types with artificial sweeteners like aspartame or saccharine
  • Alcoholic drinks – especially shorts – can irritate the bladder
  • The acid in some fruit juices can make problems worse for some people
  • Smoking
  • Some medication

Avoiding constipation and following a healthy diet: when the bowel does not empty properly it will swell up and push down onto the bladder. You can help avoid constipation by following a healthy diet.

What can I do to prevent bladder problems?

Practicing regular pelvic floor exercises

Maintaining a healthy weight. Being overweight can also make your bladder problems worse. Extra weight may put pressure on the pelvic floor muscles which can become weak and may result in stress urinary incontinence.

When should you ask for support?

“When bladder problems affect people's lives and it becomes difficult for them to enjoy the theatre, undertake long journeys, or go on holidays, it's time to ask for help," says Jan.

''Urinary incontinence causes huge embarrassment and inconvenience but there are often simple lifestyle measures which can help.”

What kinds of treatments are on offer?

The team at Benenden Hospital also offers percutaneous tibial nerve stimulation (PTNS) where an acupuncture needle linked to a TENS machine can stimulate the tibial nerve in the ankle. This acts on the nerve controlling the bladder.

“This is effective and takes up to 12 weekly sessions to work–it feels like a pleasant tingle,” says Jan.

Patients who find that they regularly need to get up to use the loo at night can also be taught to use a small catheter, to retrain the bladder to empty itself properly.

As a last resort, the team can also refer to gynaecology or urology teams at Benenden Hospital who can offer further treatments.

We offer a holistic assessment on your first visit to allow you time to discuss your symptoms, and your treatment plan will be tailored to your individual needs.

Which conditions do we treat ?

Overactive bladder

Symptoms of an overactive bladder include urinary urgency (needing the toilet with little warning), frequency (going to the toilet more than 7-8 times daily), and sometimes not being able to make it to the toilet (urge incontinence). You may also be woken up at night because you need to pass urine.

Remember – an overactive bladder is not an inevitable part of ageing.

Stress incontinence

Symptoms of stress incontinence include urine leaking on coughing, sneezing, laughing and physical exercise. This can sometimes occur after childbirth and during the menopause due to weakening of the pelvic floor muscles.

Stress urinary incontinence is not related to psychological stress. It is extremely common and there are approximately nine million people in the UK experiencing some form of stress incontinence. It can affect women and men of all ages, although it is more common among women. Men can develop stress incontinence after radical surgery for prostate cancer. Surgery to tighten or support the bladder outlet can also help.

Pelvic organ prolapse

Weakened pelvic floor muscles can cause one or more of the pelvic organs to “drop” into the vagina. This can also affect your bladder or bowel function. Pelvic floor exercises are nationally the recommended first-line treatment, but it can be difficult to know if you are doing these correctly so our experts can help you make sure you are doing them properly.

An assessment with our specialist nursing team can give you the proactive steps to better understand and manage your condition.

More useful advice can be obtained from the Bladder and Bowel Community, Bladder and Bowel UK or the Cystitis and Overactive Bladder Foundation.

Get in touch or contact our Private Patient Team to access the service by calling 01580 363158.

Published on 29 January 2021