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Slideshow: Myths and Facts About Your Bladder

Myth: Small Bladder, Big Problems

Some people blame a small bladder for frequent leaks, but your body's normal "capacity" is rarely the true cause of a life-disrupting problem. In healthy people, that capacity ranges from 1 to 2 cups. The real culprit is more likely to be weak muscles, medication side effects, infection, or nerve damage -- and treatments are available.

Fact: Twice a Night Isn't Right

One bathroom trip during the night may be acceptable, but for two or more -- called nocturia -- it's time for a checkup. To determine if it's caused by a treatable condition, your doctor will want more information: a bathroom diary, a record of fluids you drank, and a list of medications and known illnesses. Some possible causes include drinking a lot just before bed, an enlarged prostate, certain medications, and overactive bladder.

Myth: You Need 8 Glasses a Day

We don’t all need eight glasses of water a day, the one-size-fits-all health mantra that just won't die. If you tend to leak, this could be why. Fluid needs differ, depending on your size and activity. The best advice for healthy people is to drink when you're thirsty and stay hydrated. This keeps urine from becoming too concentrated and lowers the risk of getting kidney stones.

Fact: Anyone Can Have Bladder Trouble

Bladder problems impact men and women at many different stages of life. Though they might be more common in certain groups -- including women who've had children, older adults, men with a history of prostate trouble, and people with spinal cord injuries -- nobody should suffer silently. People with problems should seek advice from a doctor.

Myth: Drinking Less Is Best

Waving off the waiter when he tries to refill your glass may help a little. But doctors say a healthy bladder should be able to handle a normal amount of fluid. You might want to consider downsizing that morning cup of coffee or skipping the cola, because caffeine is a bladder stimulant.

Fact: It's Not Always a Prostate Problem

Plumbing problems in men can sometimes be caused by an overactive bladder, not related to an enlarged prostate. Both conditions can send men running to the bathroom again and again, but the treatments are different. Talk to your doctor about all your symptoms, what testing may be needed, and what treatments may be appropriate.

Fact: Kegels Are for Men, Too

You may have heard of women doing these bladder-control moves after childbirth. Doctors recommend them for men, too. While urinating, try stopping the flow midstream. Then, start again. The muscles that stop your flow are what you want to work on strengthening. Next, on an empty bladder, try contracting these muscles for 3-5 seconds and then release, and keep the stomach, buttocks, and legs relaxed. Work up to three sets of 10 repetitions each day. You can do Kegels anywhere, anytime, without anyone noticing.

Fact: A System and Schedule May Help

Bladder training is a first step that may help some people with overactive bladders. You resist the first urge to go and wait for the scheduled time. Gradually, you can try holding it longer. Together with Kegels, these two methods can cut overactive bladder episodes by half.

Fact: Shaping Up for Bladder Control

A healthy lifestyle may play a supportive role in preventing and lessening some bladder problems. Doctors say getting regular exercise and doing Kegels can curb stress incontinence, the leakage caused by coughing, laughing, or sneezing. And because carrying a lot of extra weight causes bladder troubles, slimming down may help, too.

Myth: Bladder Problems Are a Fact of Life

If bladder problems are bothering you, talk with your doctor. Incontinence is a medical problem -- not an inevitable part of aging. Treatments will depend on a person’s specific problem and overall health. People who seek help often see improvements in their symptoms and their day-to-day life.

Is an Overactive Bladder Disrupting Your Life

Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on July 11, 2013

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