After a Stroke
Managing your Bladder
People with a stroke may have problems with the way their bladder works. This occurs because
the stroke has damaged a part of the brain that controls bladder function. Some people report
they are not able to control the bladder the way they once could. Others have trouble with
getting the bladder to empty, so they feel that they have to go more often. These problems
should be treated. If they are not, it can lead to infections, kidney stones or skin breakdown.
Loss of Bladder Control
Some people who have had a stroke may not be able to control their bladder function. They may
have frequent and sudden urges to urinate with little control of their bladder. Often, they are not
able to hold their urine long enough to get to the bathroom. This can be stressful and
embarrassing if a person is not prepared.
Treatment of Loss of Bladder Control
Treatment will vary with the cause of the problem. If you have the urge to urinate but can not
make it to the bathroom on time, there are treatment options that can be put in place to help.
Go to the bathroom at set times. Start out going to the bathroom every 2 to 3 hours
during the day. If you do not feel the urge to urinate, you should still go at the scheduled
time. This will help to train your bladder.
Sit on the commode or toilet long enough to give yourself time to empty your bladder.
Do not rush.
If you feel the urge to go, do not wait. Call for help if you need someone to assist you to
Drink plenty of fluids during the day. Limit the amount of fluids at night to help reduce
the number of times you have to go to the bathroom at night.
Limit your caffeine and alcohol intake.
Do Kegel exercises to strengthen and tone pelvic floor muscles. You can practice these
by trying to stop the flow of urine while you are on the toilet. After you have practiced
this to get the feel of it, you can do it any time during the day, even when you are sitting
at your kitchen table, or brushing your teeth. The more you do it, the more it will help.
Pads may be worn to prevent soiling of clothing. There are external catheters that attach
to a leg bag, to prevent soiling of clothes, of both men and women.
Tell your doctor if you are having problems with control of your bladder. Tests may be
ordered to find the cause. At times, your doctor may order medicine that may help to
control the frequent and sudden urge to urinate.
Some people who have had a stroke may not be able to empty their bladders completely when
they go to the bathroom. This can cause urinary tract infections, bladder stones, or a condition
where the urine goes up into the kidneys. When the bladder does not empty, it can fill up and get
stretched. This can cause the urine to leak from the overfilled bladder. Doctors call this urinary
Treatment of Urinary Retention
The doctor may order some tests to find the cause. Treatment will vary with the cause. To help
your doctor get started:
Tell your doctor that you feel your bladder may not empty fully when you go to the toilet.
The doctor or nurse may use a machine called a bladder scanner to measure how much
urine is still in your bladder after you go to the bathroom.
Give your doctor a list of all the medicines you are taking. Some medicines may cause
The doctor may order medicine to help your bladder empty. Make sure you take the
medicine as the doctor ordered.
Go to the bathroom and sit on the toilet or commode until you feel your bladder is empty.
Remember not to rush.
Pads may be worn if you have a urine leak. This will prevent soiling of clothes.
If you continue to have problems with urine retention, you may need a catheter to help
empty your bladder. The catheter may need to stay in or you may be taught how to insert
it at scheduled times.
Symptoms of a Urinary Tract Infection
Urine that smells bad
Urine that is cloudy or dark
Fever and chills
Cramps in the lower abdomen
Pain in the lower back
Burning or pain during urination
If you think you may have these symptoms, you should call your doctor. Your doctor may ask
you to come in and give a sample of urine for testing. Your doctor will order antibiotics if
needed to treat an infection.
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call if you
have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your doctor. This
is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because each
person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team when using
this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright © 8/2016 University of Wisconsin Hospitals
and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#6552