Here’s the real reason some people need to pee more often than others.
We all have the friend who claims “I have a small bladder” after she runs to the bathroom three times during a two-hour movie. It appears to be a common condition that affects women (and a few men) everywhere, whether you’re feeling fidgety during a long line for the restroom or 39,000 feet in the air on a cross-country flight.
So, here’s the kicker: Small bladders don’t exist. When someone says they have a small bladder, their tank is probably the same size as everyone else’s. The difference is actually in the sensitivity of their bladder. In other words, they feel an urge to pee sooner than usual, even when their bladder still has a ton of room left.
FYI, the one exception to this rule is for those who have had part of their bladders surgically removed, such as for cancer treatment. However, even in these rare cases, the bladder pretty quickly stretches back to its normal size.
A typical bladder can hold from one to two cups of pee at a time. When it’s about halfway full, the bladder will start signaling to the brain that it’s time to seek out a bathroom. That’s why you can usually hold your pee long after that first urge to go: Your bladder is not actually full yet.
But some bladders are more sensitive and will feel a more urgent need to go when their bladders are really just halfway full or less. For an overactive bladder, the muscles may signal the need to pee when there isn’t even a need to go yet. If you find yourself needing to empty the tank more than seven times a day, you may be showing signs of overactive bladder.
Even though small bladders aren’t necessarily a thing, that doesn’t make your constant need to pee any less valid. The most common causes of frequent urination are weak bladder or pelvic muscles, infections (like UTIs), and nerve damage.
Whether you have overactive bladder or just feel like you go a little more often than you should have to, you can improve your bladder continence with kegels, lifestyle changes for OAB, and bladder training. And don’t forget to get honest with your doc, so he or she can offer you the best advice and treatment. Here are tips for talking to a doctor about overactive bladder.
Dr. Parikh, a board-certified pediatrician affiliated with The Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, is HealthiNation's chief medical editor.
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We all know that someone who goes to
the bathroom every five minutes, and
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chalks it up to simply
having a small bladder.
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It's actually a myth that
the physical size of your bladder
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affects how often you
take bathroom breaks.
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Certain people may urinate often,
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which makes them feel like
they have a small bladder.
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But it is not physically
smaller than usual.
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For healthy adults, the bladder
can hold one to two cups of urine.
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You'll typically feel the urge to pee
when your bladder is half way full.
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Most people can wait to use the bathroom
at this point if they're in a meeting or
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in the middle of the their favorite show.
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But some people have a more
sensitive bladder, and
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feel the need to urinate
before that point.
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With a condition called
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the bladder muscle may give
the wrong message to the brain,
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which makes you think you have
to go sooner than you do.
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A key sign of overactive bladder is
needing to go to the bathroom more than
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seven times during the day.
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If you suspect you might have overactive
bladder, bring it up with your doctor.
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There are many lifestyle changes that can
improve your symptoms, such as avoiding
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certain foods, doing kegels, and
training your bladder to go less often.
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Medications can also make things better.
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Follow these tips and you can stop
blaming your bladder for being small.
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Is a small bladder a big problem? Little Rock, AR: Arkansas Urology, 2017. (Accessed on August 7, 2017 at http://www.arkansasurology.com/blog/small-bladder-medical-myth.)
Eilber, K. What is the difference between a small bladder and an overactive bladder? [video]. Poenix, AZ: EmpowHER. (Accessed on August 7, 2017 at http://www.empowher.com/overactive-bladder/content/what-difference-between-small-bladder-and-overactive-bladder-dr-.)