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How long is it safe to hold your urine?

Have you ever waited so long to use the restroom you felt as though your bladder would explode?  Ignoring your body’s warning signals and holding your urine too long can cause serious damage to your bladder and your overall health.

A healthy human bladder can hold between 400 to 500 milliliters of urine, or about 2 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.

“Usually I recommend that you empty your bladder every three hours, whether you have the urge to go or not,” says Nazia Bandukwala, D.O., a urologist at Piedmont. “It’s important to do that so you’re not retaining too much urine in your bladder.”

The dangers of retaining urine  

All the blood in the body is filtered through your kidneys, and metabolic waste products from your blood are excreted in your urine. 

“If you are not urinating and you're retaining urine, it can cause metabolic abnormalities and electrolyte issues, which can lead to long term renal (kidney) failure,” Dr. Bandukwala says. “Aside from that, if you retain urine and you don't empty your bladder well or if you don't empty frequently enough, you can have what we call urinary stasis and develop a urinary tract infection (UTI). Your bladder, a muscle, may even start to atrophy or weaken, leading to urinary incontinence, or poor bladder emptying." 

In rare and serious situations, holding urine for too long can lead to a bladder rupture.

“We have seen patients who haven't urinated in about a week, and they'll have over 2 liters of urine in their bladder,” Dr. Bandukwala says.  “If too much pressure builds up in the bladder, it can rupture. But this is a very uncommon occurrence.”

In these cases, difficulty urinating may be caused by an enlarged prostate (in men), surgery, certain medications, infection or a nerve problem.

When should you head to the bathroom?

So if you are a bathroom procrastinator, how do you know when you just need to get out of your chair and go?

“If your bladder is telling you it's full and it needs to go, I always recommend that you go ahead and go to the restroom to empty,” Dr. Bandukwala says. “That's usually a good signal that your brain and your bladder are communicating.”

Need to make an appointment with a Piedmont physician? Save time, book online.

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