Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Bladder

4-minute read

What is the urinary system?

The bladder is part of the urinary system, or urinary tract. The bladder is an organ in your pelvis that stores urine (wee). It works with the kidneys to rid the body of waste products from the blood.

The kidneys and ureters

Your kidneys make urine, which is transported to your bladder along tubes called ureters.

The bladder and urethra

Once the urine reaches the bladder, it stays there until you empty it (urinate/wee).

Urine (wee) leaves your body by passing through a narrow tube called the urethra.

What happens when you urinate?

To urinate (do a wee), your urethral sphincter (the muscle controlling the bladder outlet) and pelvic floor muscles relax. Your bladder then contracts (squeezes) so that it empties.

How much urine can your bladder hold?

Your bladder can hold about 500ml of urine. But you usually feel the need to go when it’s holding around 200-300ml.

Most people empty their bladder 4 to 6 times a day.

What are some conditions that can affect the bladder?

Bladder problems are fairly common.

Symptoms of bladder conditions can include:

  • wetting yourself (even a little) when you cough, sneeze, laugh or when active
  • feeling an urgent need to urinate, or not getting to the toilet in time
  • passing small amounts of urine more than 8 times a day
  • unexpected changes in your bladder habits

Speak to your doctor if you’re having problems with your bladder.

CHECK YOUR SYMPTOMS — Use the Symptom Checker and find out if you need to seek medical help.

Loss of bladder control - incontinence

If you can’t always control your bladder function, you may have urinary incontinence. Urinary incontinence is any involuntary (accidental) loss of urine from your bladder. It ranges from small ‘leaks’, to complete loss of control.

There are several different types of urinary incontinence, and treatment depends on the type and cause of incontinence. There are also some lifestyle suggestions that can help stop leaks.

Bladder infection

A bladder infection is also known as ‘cystitis’.

Common symptoms include needing to urinate more often (and sometimes urgently) and pain or discomfort when urinating.

See your doctor if you have any symptoms of a bladder infection or urinary tract infection (UTI).

Overactive bladder

Overactive bladder is when the bladder muscles contract on their own. They may contract when your bladder is not full or when you are not ready to empty your bladder.

This can cause symptoms such as:

  • the need to wee urgently, sometimes causing loss of bladder control
  • weeing more often than usual
  • waking up more than once overnight to wee

Talk to your doctor if you have symptoms like these as there are treatments available.

Neurogenic bladder

‘Neurogenic bladder dysfunction’ is when there are problems with the bladder and how it empties. This is caused by problems with your nerves. It can cause problems with your bladder control.

Neurogenic bladder can affect people with conditions such as:

Other bladder problems

Other problems that can affect the bladder include:

What tests are there for bladder problems?

There are several different tests, that your doctor might recommend, to investigate different bladder problems. These can include:

  • urine tests
  • bladder ultrasound — a type of imaging test
  • cystoscopy — a procedure using an instrument called a cytoscope (a thin tube with a light and a small camera at the end) to look inside the bladder

Talk to your doctor about bladder symptoms. If you think you have incontinence, contact your doctor or the National Continence Helpline on 1800 33 00 66.

FIND A HEALTH SERVICE — The Service Finder can help you find doctors, pharmacies, hospitals and other health services.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: May 2022


Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Psychological Treatments for Bladder and Bowel Anxieties

Psychological Treatments for Bladder and Bowel Anxieties: A brief outline of psychological interventions that are used to treat bladder & bowel anxieties

Read more on Mindovergut.com website

What is incontinence anxiety? - Bladder and bowel anxieties

What is incontinence anxiety?: Bladder and bowel incontinence anxiety (also known as bladder and bowel obsession, and bladder/bowel control anxieties)

Read more on Mindovergut.com website

Bladder Training | Continence Foundation of Australia

The aim of bladder training is to help you gain better control over your bladder. Bladder training should be done under the supervision of a continence health professional.

Read more on Continence Foundation of Australia website

Advice for adults living with bladder and bowel anxieties

Advice for adults living with bladder anxieties: people with bladder & bowel anxietiesare often concerned about how their condition affects employment

Read more on Mindovergut.com website

Incontinence & Bladder Weakness | Jean Hailes

What makes a normal bladder. Types of incontinence. Causes and symptoms. Diagnosis and treatment. Prevention and management.

Read more on Jean Hailes for Women's Health website

Resilience programs - Bladder and bowel anxieties

The free psychologically focused 5-week resilience program for bladder and bowel anxieties. We hope to make the resilience programs available

Read more on Mindovergut.com website

Continence in spina bifida: bladder and bowel - MyDr.com.au

Issues surrounding bladder or bowel continence are a concern for many people with spina bifida.

Read more on myDr website

Bladder Health | Continence Foundation of Australia

Bladder Health. Signs of a healthy bladder include empties 4-6 times each day. Can hold up to 400-600ml of urine (the sensation of needing to empty occurs at 200-300 ml). May may wake you up once at night to pass urine and twice if you are older (i.e. over 65 years of age).

Read more on Continence Foundation of Australia website

Bladder and bowel for children | Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care

Children can often have bladder and bowel health problems. These problems may be developmental or social. Find out what these problems are and how you can manage them.

Read more on Department of Health and Aged Care website

Prolapse & Bladder Weakness | Jean Hailes

Uterine and vaginal prolapse. What is it and how is it treated? Learn about types of prolapses, what puts you at a greater risk and how to prevent them.

Read more on Jean Hailes for Women's Health website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Victorian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo

Healthdirect Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to the Traditional Owners and to Elders both past and present.