Urinary Problems and Injuries, Age 12 and Older

Topic Overview

Picture of the urinary systemMost people will have some kind of urinary problem or injury in their lifetime. Urinary tract problems and injuries can range from minor to more serious. Sometimes, minor and serious problems can start with the same symptoms. Many urinary problems and injuries are minor, and home treatment is all that is needed to relieve your symptoms.

See pictures of the female urinary system and male urinary system.

Urine color and odor

Many things can affect urine color, including fluid balance, diet, medicines, and diseases. How dark or light the color is tells you how much water is in it. Vitamin B supplements can turn urine bright yellow. Some medicines, blackberries, beets, rhubarb, or blood in the urine can turn urine red-brown.

Some foods (such as asparagus), vitamins, and antibiotics (such as penicillin) can cause urine to have a different odor. A sweet, fruity odor may be caused by uncontrolled diabetes. A urinary tract infection (UTI) can cause a bad odor.

Urinary symptoms

Common symptoms of a urinary problem include:

  • Burning with urination (dysuria). This is the most common symptom of a urinary tract infection.
  • Frequent urge to urinate without being able to pass much urine (frequency).
  • Pain in the flank, which is felt just below the rib cage and above the waist on one or both sides of the back.
  • Fever.
  • Urgent need to urinate (urgency).
  • Feeling like you can't completely empty your bladder.
  • Blood in the urine (hematuria). Your urine may look red, brown, or pink. Blood in the urine may occur after intense exercise, such as running or bicycling.
  • Leaking urine (incontinence).
  • Nausea and vomiting.

When you only have one symptom or if your symptoms are vague, it can be harder to figure out what the problem is. If you are slightly dehydrated, your urine will be more concentrated, and urinating may cause discomfort. Drink more fluids—enough to keep your urine light yellow or clear like water—to help decrease discomfort.

Urinary tract infections

When you have a urinary tract infection (UTI), you may have several urinary symptoms. UTIs are more common in women than in men. This is because the urethra is shorter in women and comes into contact with bacteria from the skin, anus, and vagina. You can reduce your chance of having a UTI by controlling risk factors that can cause these infections.

Infections that commonly cause UTI symptoms include:

Other urinary problems

Kidney stones are another urinary problem that can cause mild to severe urinary symptoms. Men ages 20 to 30 are affected most often with kidney stones, but anyone can get stones at any age. For more information, see the topic Kidney Stones.

An injury to the genital area can cause severe pain. Usually the pain subsides over the course of a few minutes to an hour. The severity of the pain is not always an indicator of the severity of the injury. After an injury such as a hit to the genital area, it is important to watch for urinary problems. You usually need to see your doctor if you are having trouble urinating, can't urinate, have blood in your urine, have swelling, or have ongoing pain.

In women and girls, genital skin irritation can cause pain with urination.

Urinary problems related to aging

As people age, some urinary problems become more common. Stress incontinence is the most common form of urinary incontinence in older women. Multiple childbirths, aging, and decreasing hormone levels may cause changes in the pelvic muscles and supportive structures that lead to stress incontinence. It may also occur in men, especially those who have had prostate surgery. For more information, see the topic Urinary Incontinence in Women or Urinary Incontinence in Men.

In men, trouble urinating or the inability to urinate is often caused by prostate enlargement. For more information, see the topic Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH).

Check your symptoms to decide if and when you should see a doctor.

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Home Treatment

Bladder infections

Starting home treatment at the first minor signs of a bladder infection may prevent the problem from getting worse, clear up your infection, and prevent complications.

  • Drink more fluids—enough to keep your urine light yellow or clear like water—as soon as you notice the symptoms and for the next 24 hours. This will help dilute the urine, flush bacteria out of the bladder, and decrease irritation. Note: If a medical condition such as a kidney or heart problem prevents you from drinking more fluids, make sure you are drinking your usual amount of fluids. Drinking cranberry or blueberry juice may reduce the chances of having urinary tract infections.
  • Urinate when you feel the urge. Don't wait until a more convenient time.
  • Do not drink alcohol, caffeine, and carbonated beverages, which can irritate the bladder.
  • Take a warm bath, which may help relieve pain and itching.
    • Avoid using bubble bath, because it may cause more irritation. If urinary pain or vaginal burning and redness occur in a young girl, she may have an allergy to bubble bath or soap.
    • Use gentle soaps, such as Basis, Cetaphil, Dove, or Oil of Olay. Avoid deodorant soaps. Use as little soap as possible.
  • Apply a heating pad over your genital area to help relieve the pain. Set the heating pad temperature on low. Never go to sleep with a heating pad in place.
  • Examine your genital area. Increased redness may mean skin irritation.
  • Wear loose clothing and soft cotton underwear. Do not use soaps, perfumes, or feminine hygiene sprays on the genital area.
  • Avoid intercourse until symptoms improve. Do not use a diaphragm or spermicidal cream, foam, or gel. A diaphragm may put pressure on your urethra. This pressure may slow down or prevent your bladder from emptying completely. Spermicides can cause genital skin irritation.

Recurrent bladder infections in women

If you have frequent bladder infections without complications, you and your doctor may develop a self-treatment plan. The plan usually includes taking antibiotics at the first sign of a bladder infection. Contacting your doctor is not necessary. For more information, see the topic Urinary Tract Infections in Teens and Adults.

If you are certain that your symptoms are caused by a bladder infection, follow your doctor's instructions for taking the medicine and monitoring your symptoms. Keep a diary of the number of times you use your self-treatment plan. Call your doctor if:

  • Your symptoms do not improve after 48 hours of treatment.
  • You start having bladder infections more often than in the past.

Your self-treatment plan is developed for your health needs. Do not take antibiotics that have not been specifically prescribed for this bladder infection. Do not take antibiotics left over from a previous prescription or antibiotics prescribed for someone else.

Urinary incontinence

Urinary incontinence is common, especially among older adults. Home treatment can often help decrease your symptoms.

  • Talk to your doctor about your incontinence at your next regularly scheduled appointment.
  • Reduce the amount of fluids you drink to no more than 2 qt (2 L) daily.
  • Establish a schedule of urinating every 2 to 4 hours, whether you feel the need or not.
  • Make a clear, quick path to the bathroom, and wear clothes that you can easily remove, such as ones with elastic waistbands or Velcro closures. Keep a bedpan or urinal close to your bed or chair.
  • Practice "double voiding" by urinating as much as possible, relaxing for a few moments, and then urinating again.
  • Do not drink caffeinated or carbonated beverages, such as caffeinated coffee, tea, and soda.
  • Do not drink more than 1 alcohol drink a day.
  • Increase the amount of fiber in your diet. Constipation may make your symptoms worse. For more information, see the topic Constipation, Age 12 and Older.
  • Talk with your pharmacist or doctor about all medicines you take, including nonprescription medicines, to see whether any of them may be making your incontinence worse.
  • Strengthen your pelvic muscles by doing Kegel exercises every day and by having a regular exercise program.
  • Control your weight. If you are overweight, try to lose some weight. Remember that effective weight-loss programs depend on a combination of diet and exercise. For more information, see the topic Weight Management.
  • Quit smoking or using other tobacco products. This may reduce the amount that you cough, which may reduce your problem with incontinence. For more information, see the topic Quitting Smoking.

Home treatment for other urinary problems

For information about home treatment for other urinary problems, see the following:

Symptoms to watch for during home treatment

Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home treatment:

  • Other symptoms develop, such as fever, belly pain, or vomiting.
  • You are unable to urinate or have increasing difficulty urinating.
  • Symptoms of a bladder infection do not completely go away after home treatment.
  • More urinary symptoms develop, such as localized back pain (flank pain) or blood in your urine.
  • Symptoms become more severe or more frequent.

Prevention

You can help prevent urinary problems by following these tips:

  • Drink more fluids, enough to keep your urine light yellow or clear like water. Water or cranberry or blueberry juice are good choices. Extra fluids help flush the urinary tract. Note: If you have kidney, heart, or liver disease and have to limit fluids, talk with your doctor before you increase the amount of fluids you drink.
  • Do not drink alcohol, caffeine, and carbonated beverages, which can irritate the bladder.
  • Urinate frequently. Urinate whenever you have the urge.
  • Wash the genital area once a day with plain water or mild soap. Rinse well and dry thoroughly.
  • Increase the amount of fiber in your diet. Constipation may make your symptoms worse. For more information, see the topic Constipation, Age 12 and Older.

The following tips can help women prevent urinary symptoms:

  • Wipe from front to back after using the toilet. This may reduce the spread of bacteria from the anus to the urethra.
  • Do not take bubble baths or use perfumed soaps or powders in the genital area. These products may cause genital skin irritation.
  • Do not douche, and do not use vaginal deodorants or perfumed feminine hygiene products.
  • Wear cotton underwear, cotton-lined panty hose, and loose clothing. This helps promote the circulation of air to the vaginal area.
  • Change sanitary napkins often.
  • Drink extra water before intercourse, and urinate promptly afterward. This is especially important if you have had many urinary tract infections.
  • Do not use a diaphragm or spermicidal cream, foam, or gel. A diaphragm may put pressure on your urethra. This pressure may slow down or prevent your bladder from emptying completely. Spermicides can cause genital skin irritation. For more information on methods of birth control, see the topic Birth Control.

For information about preventing kidney stone formation, see the topic Kidney Stones.

Preparing For Your Appointment

To prepare for your appointment, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.

You can help your doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared to answer the following questions:

  • How long have you had your symptoms?
  • What are your symptoms? Have you had:
    • Pain or burning upon urination?
    • An urge to urinate frequently, but you usually pass only small quantities of urine?
    • Dribbling (inability to control urine release)?
    • Reddish or pinkish urine?
    • Bad-smelling urine?
    • Cloudy urine?
  • Have you had a fever?
  • Have you had flank or belly pain?
  • Have you had nausea or vomiting?
  • Have you had vaginal or penile discharge or itching? Do you have a new sex partner, or do you practice high-risk sexual behavior?
  • Have you ever had a problem like this in the past? If so, when? How was it treated?
  • What do you think may have triggered this episode?
  • Have you had a recent injury to the belly, pelvis, or back?
  • What home treatments have you tried, and how effective were they?
  • Do you have any health risks?

Remember that a urine specimen will probably be collected during your office visit. Try not to urinate immediately before the visit.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine
Last Revised April 12, 2011

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

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