Skip to main content

Painful and difficult urination is something that many people deal with at some point. The most common symptoms you might encounter are:

  • The need to urinate more often
  • Urinary retention
  • Bloody urine (also known as hematuria)
  • Cloudy urine
  • Strong-smelling urine
  • Pain around your pelvis

Dr. Rhonda Walsh, a urologist with Summit Health, explains these bladder issues and how to treat them.

Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)

UTIs (which mostly affect women) are an infection in any part of your urinary system—your kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra. "There isn't one definite cause of a urinary tract infection," Dr. Walsh notes. "It's not as if you do something and you get a UTI." There are, however, common contributors, such as:

  • Being postmenopausal
  • Being sexually active
  • Not emptying the bladder completely

To properly treat a UTI, the often-mentioned home remedy of cranberry juice won't do much. "Probably a third of urinary tract infections will go away on their own, but generally they need to be treated with antibiotics," says Dr. Walsh. "No matter how much cranberry juice you drink, it's not going to help."

Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH)

Also known as an enlarged prostate, "BPH tends to cause urinary retention by obstructing the flow of the urine through the urethra," says Dr Walsh. About half of men between ages 51 and 60 have it, with 90 percent of men above age 80 having it. It's non-cancerous but can cause ongoing uncomfortableness. Contributing factors are:

  • Family history of prostate problems
  • Aging
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Obesity

Treatment of BPH varies and depends upon the symptom severity. Discuss with your doctor whether you should consider medication or surgery.

Bladder Stones

While UTIs affect women disproportionately, bladder stones are more common in men. These are concentrated urine that crystallized into stones and usually result from your bladder not emptying completely. Causes include:

  • BPH
  • Damaged nerves
  • Bladder inflammation
  • Kidney stones

It's possible to pass bladder stones naturally. Although, for more severe cases, surgery to either break the stones apart or remove them are options to discuss with your doctor.

Blood in Urine (hematuria)

Blood in the urine may not be a cause for concern. However, it should not be ignored as it can be a sign of a serious medical condition or infection. Your doctor will be able to run urine tests, known as urinalysis, or blood tests to look for signs of an issue.

How can I tell if my bladder issue is an emergency?

"If your symptoms are really mild, then you probably don't have to rush to the emergency room," says Dr. Walsh. "But if you have large blood clots and can't go to the bathroom, then you should go to the ER." Some at-home remedies to ease symptoms are:

  • Drinking lots of water
  • Taking a warm bath
  • Using a heating pad on your abdomen
  • Not forcing yourself to go to the bathroom

Dr. Walsh points out that even though you've probably been told to never hold it, that's not really true. While you shouldn't hold it in for eight hours, you only need to urinate six or seven times a day.

"In general, listen to your body," Dr. Walsh concludes. "If you notice something is suddenly different, then go see your doctor."