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Problems passing urine: FAQs for men and women


Everybody does it, but not everybody talks about it: peeing. The colour, smell, amount, and control of your pee can provide clues about your health. And while people may often have questions or concerns about their urine, it can be uncomfortable and awkward to bring this up with a specialist. So in our latest blog post, we sit down with Mr David Yates, Consultant Urologist, to answer frequently asked questions, and take the awkwardness out of a difficult subject.

I am having lots of problems with my waterworks. Should I be worried?

People can have problems with passing urine (slow flow, difficult to start), holding their urine (urgency and/or frequency) or getting out of bed at night too often to pass urine. There are many causes and they can differ between men and women.  It can significantly affect the quality of someone’s life and should always be investigated promptly.

I am a man.  What is the likely problem?

Older men (over 50) can develop difficulties passing urine because of benign (non-cancerous) enlargement of the prostate gland. There are simple tests that can be done to work out what the problem is and for benign disease, this can often be sorted with lifestyle advice, medication and sometimes surgery.  However, prostate cancer can present in a similar way and should be ruled out.

I am a woman.  What is the likely problem?

If you don’t have a urine infection, then it is possible you have something called an overactive bladder. However, the symptoms of urinating too often, too urgently or with pain could be a sign of something more serious like bladder cancer.  Prompt investigation will work out the cause and treatment can be recommended accordingly.

Why do I get out of bed at night so often to pass urine?

There are many reasons that this can develop.  It can be a natural phenomenon of getting older but can also be a symptom of bladder, prostate and/or heart problems.  A thorough evaluation is required to work out the cause.

Could my symptoms be due to something serious like cancer?

If you have not actually seen blood in your urine then this is not the most likely cause of your symptoms but it does remain a possibility, especially if you are a smoker or have a family history of prostate or bladder cancer.  If you are concerned, it should be easy for a specialist to put your mind at rest with a few basic tests.

Will I need any tests?

Yes.  You will need a physical examination, urine sample and bladder scan after you have been to the toilet. Depending on your symptoms, you may require an ultrasound scan and/or flexible cystoscopy.

What is an Ultrasound?

This is a scan performed by a Consultant Radiologist in the Imaging department.  They apply a gel to your abdomen and scan your kidneys and bladder using a probe.

What is a Flexible Cystoscopy?

This is a camera inspection of the lining of your bladder.  It is performed in the Endoscopy Department whilst you are awake. It is a quick, non-painful procedure using a lubrication gel with some anaesthetic properties.  The procedure involves filling your bladder with saline to allow a close inspection of the bladder lining, looking for any stones, tumours or areas of redness.

What happens next?

Depending on the diagnosis and results of tests, your specialist will talk to you about the best way to manage your problem which could involve lifestyle advice, a prescription, referral to a different specialist or possibly surgery.

Find out more

You can find out more about Mr Yates and book an appointment here.

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