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How to Travel Comfortably with a Distended Bladder


Traveling is hard to begin with. Traveling with a distended bladder is even harder. Don’t let your bladder issues hold you back, check out these tips!

Does the thought of taking a vacation or planning a trip to celebrate a holiday with friends and family leave you feeling tense?

It might.

Especially if you struggle with the symptoms of a distended bladder.

Whether by car, plane or train, travel is stressful enough on its own. You never know when troublesome weather, overbooked flights or delays of any kind might hinder your trip.

Trying to manage a distended bladder, and urinary incontinence, in particular, can make travel especially challenging.

Urinary incontinence is often referred to as the other “i” word by Baby Boomers.

It can come in the form of occasional accidental leaks to frequent visits to the bathroom to complete inability to hold in the flow of urine and needing to wear protection.

And it is an issue for roughly 30 percent of the U.S. population. This is due in great part to the aging of the population.

Whatever the case, a distended bladder is an additional obstacle when it comes to travel; turning what should be a celebratory occasion into a potentially embarrassing one.

What are the causes of distended bladder?

Bladder distension is usually the result of one of these two main causes:

  1. There is a blockage along the urinary tract that affects the flow of urine, or
  2. There is damage to the nerves or to the bladder wall that controls urination.

Among the causes for the blockage to the urinary tract are:

  • A large-sized stone has found its way into the bladder and is blocking the urine outflow and causing urine to accumulate in the bladder.
  • There may be prostate enlargement (Benign prostate hypertrophy, BPH) that is obstructing the urethral passage and causing retention of urine with bladder distension. This is most common in men over the age of 55 and depending on the size of the enlargement, the flow of urine may be partially or completely blocked.
  • Other problems may be presenting in the urethra such as stricture, spasm, infection or an ulcer and could lead to partial or complete blockage of urine. The urethra is connected to the bladder and is the passage through which urine flows out of the body.

In terms of neurological damage, the nerves that control bladder contraction and relaxation are not responding properly. They have typically been compressed or damaged as a result of:

  • spinal cord compression
  • a spinal cord tumor
  • injury to the spinal cord
  • infection of the spinal cord (such as Pott Disease)

In women, a distended bladder may also be due to an ovarian tumor, uterine fibroid or pelvic cyst that creates compression to the bladder.

Certain drugs such as smooth muscle relaxants, anesthetic drugs, even antihistamines can cause bladder enlargement.

What are the symptoms of a distended bladder?

As with many conditions, there are a wide variety of symptoms that may show up for a distended bladder and you needn’t assume the worst without getting an expert option.

But some of the more common symptoms of distended bladder are:

1. Lower Abdominal Pain

Some people can experience mild to severe pain in the lower abdominal area, which is any area of the torso between the chest and pelvis. This is caused by the bladder remaining full for a long period of time.

The pain typically diminishes as soon as the bladder is emptied, but bladder and urinary tract infections could occur as a complication.

2. Trouble Urinating

With a distended bladder, it may be impossible to urinate, even if the urge is present. This condition is known as Anuria.

Even if any urine is released from the bladder, it is never enough to provide relief from the full bladder.

3. Frequent Urination At Night

While there may be difficulty with urination at other times, it can become frequent at night, a condition known as Nocturnia.

This is especially frustrating when the urge is frequent enough to keep the sufferer awake, but without any relief from actual urination.

4. Delay in Urination

Another symptom of a distended bladder is a delay in urination.

This means that there can be a whole lot of time between trying to urinate and then achieving the actual flow of urine. There is usually a burning sensation that accompanies the urination once the flow begins.

A person may need to strain in order to begin the flow of urine.

5. Incontinence

There it is again. The “i” word.

As we said earlier, incontinence can present as anything from a small or occasional leak all the way to a total lack of controlling urine flow.

Other symptoms of a distended bladder may include:

  • Bladder leakage
  • Small amounts of urine that are expelled
  • Straining while urinating
  • Fever or abnormal sweating
  • Urination which is painful
  • Full bladder
  • Bladder damage or kidney failure
  • High blood pressure
  • Anxiety

Additionally, in neurological causes there may be:

  • weakness in muscles
  • pins and needles in limbs
  • decreased muscle tone

Even though the symptoms of distended bladder can make travel more difficult, there are ways to help your journey go more smoothly.

These nine tips could save you time and ease some stress while en route.

1. Get on Google Maps and plan your route.

When traveling by road, knowing which freeway exits offer rest areas or other “pit stops” can give you real peace of mind.

You can use Google Maps or another map app to identify freeway exit guides so that you can plan regular stops for bathroom breaks.

Just be sure to leave enough time to get in those stops while still reaching your destination on schedule.

2. Plan ahead and skip the lines.

Having that horrible urge to pee is uncomfortable. It’s only made worse by rushing around in an airport or train station.

It’s important to figure in those frequent bathroom breaks into your schedule. Give yourself plenty of extra time.

Also, if you schedule flights for non-peak times, there will be far fewer long lines.

3. Avoid liquids two hours before boarding a flight.

This one is especially important if there are mechanical delays that keep you stranded on the tarmac or runway longer than planned.

Tight seat belts and changes in cabin pressure both put pressure on your bladder. Especially if it’s full.

Before the plane door closes, alert a flight attendant about your distended bladder symptoms. This can be helpful if you need to move about the cabin.

4. Pass on complementary beverages.

Most of us love the idea of getting something free. (Or at least free with the price of a costly plane ticket.)

If you struggle with a distended bladder, it’s really in your best interest to politely decline those “free” beverages.

If it’s just too much to pass these up, then steer clear of diuretics such as soda and coffee.

5. Have a “Just In Case” bag.

You’ll want to have an easily accessible bag with extra supplies such as:

  • a change of clothes
  • extra incontinence supplies
  • a plastic bag for soiled clothing

It might seem a little embarrassing, but you’ll be thankful to have it in case of an accident.

Plus, it comes in really handy if the airline loses your checked baggage.

6. If possible, reserve an aisle seat.

If that’s not possible, then consider shelling out a little extra money to access early check-in capabilities.

By doing that, you’re far more likely to grab a spot at the front of the line and better your chances of getting that aisle seat.

7. Know what your accommodations offer.

Some hotel chains offer up laundry machines, while others don’t.

It doesn’t have to be a deal breaker, but having access to a laundry machine can make your trip a lot easier. Especially if you’re planning an extended stay.

Even if you’re using underpads, you’ll also want to request some extra bed sheets. Just in case.

8. Practice the “squeeze technique.”

Even the best laid plan can still leave for some uncomfortable moments during your travels.

If you find yourself worried about getting to the bathroom in time, there is a something you can do to temporarily hold back the flow.

It’s called the “squeeze technique” and here’s how it works:

  • Stop whatever it is you’re doing and focus.
  • Become still.
  • Concentrate on contracting those muscles you use to stop the flow of urine.
  • Picture your urge slowly lessening.
  • Notice how after 10 to 15 seconds, the urge will subside.
  • Calmly find your way to the bathroom.

9. Learn how to ask, “Where is the restroom?”

This might seem silly, but it’s going to be a big plus if you’re traveling in foreign countries.

Never assume that everyone speaks English as a second language.

What are the treatments for distended bladder?

While you may not be able to address your distended bladder before you take your trip, looking into various treatments later may give you some relief from your symptoms.

Determining the cause of distended bladder is the first step in figuring out the best treatment.

As a rule of thumb, start with some simple home remedies to treat distended bladder.

  • Take a warm bath to promote urination
  • Increase your physical activity to boost urination
  • Sit near and listen to running water to stimulate urination

If home remedies dont ’ work, medical intervention may be required. These might be in the form of bladder drainage, urethral dilation, urethral stents, prostate medications or even surgery.

As with most conditions, early detection and treatment of bladder distention are important. If undiagnosed and left untreated, bladder distention can lead to complications, so you’ll want to speak with your doctor.

In the meantime, have a great trip. And if you have any recommendations or tips for traveling while managing a distended bladder, feel free to share!

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