Authored by Revere Health

Holding the Urge and the Underlying Dangers

July 18, 2016 | Urology

Are you putting yourself at risk when you ignore nature’s call? The urge to urinate always seems to come at the wrong time, but deciding to hold it in is not the safest choice. The occasional crossing of the legs so you can wait to go to the bathroom isn’t going to do any permanent damage, but if you are fighting the urge daily, you are creating long-term problems.

A Little About Your Bladder

The urinary bladder is a hollow shaped muscular organ that collects and holds urine produced by the kidneys. The elasticity of the bladder allows it to stretch and hold about 15 ounces of liquid at any given time – that equates to around two glasses of water. When your bladder becomes full, it sends a message to the brain, which in turn lets you know to find the nearest bathroom. As you get older, your bladder capacity drops.

Changing Bladder Function

The bladder system is delicate. It relies on an automatic feedback loop to trigger that urge to go. The human body strives to adapt to circumstances in most things, including bathroom habits. If you are continuously ignoring that urge, the body will adapt to solve the problem and you lose that sensitivity. You may find your bladder is full and you didn’t know it. This nerve damage puts you at risk for infection, kidney damage and control problems such as overactive bladder.

Risk of Infection

One of the more common problems associated with holding urine is urinary tract infection (UTI) involving the bladder, kidneys and various tubes that connect the urinary system. Fluid creates a breeding ground for bacteria, so the longer you hold your urine, the bigger the risk. The urinary tract is designed to keep out most invaders, but those defenses don’t always work perfectly. If bacteria get into a full bladder and are allowed to multiply, just a few organisms can lead to a full blown infection.

Untreated or chronic infections cause complications such as:

Pyelonephritis – Kidney infection
Kidney damage
Stricture – Narrowing of the urethra in men
Sepsis – A life-threatening blood infection

Bladder infections are not serious as long as you get treatment. Symptoms include:

Pain or burning when you urinate
You’ll feel an increased need to go
Pain or pressure in the lower abdomen
Cloudy or foul-smelling urine – in some cases there may be blood

How Long is Too Long to Hold Urine?

There is no set time. As a rule, you should go when you need to and, for most people, that is eight to 10 times a day. If you have the urge several times an hour, try to figure out why.

Is it possible you already have a UTI?
Are you drinking excessive amounts of liquid? Does your urgency decrease if you drink less?
Are you taking medicine that makes you need to pee such as a diuretic for high blood pressure? Keep taking your medication, but talk to your doctor about your concerns.
Are you drinking lots of coffee during the day? Coffee is a natural diuretic, so it may make you have to go more.

The best way to avoid those unexpected urges is to pay attention to your bladder health. Drink between one-and-a-half to two liters of water a day and limit your caffeine intake. Caffeine can irritate the bladder. Most importantly, avoid situations where you have to hold it in.


Revere Health Urology specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of urologic cancers, BPH, incontinence, and other pediatric and adult urinary problems.



The Live Better Team

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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.