Never Leave the Bathroom Stall Before Doing This, Doctors Warn

If you're rushing when using the bathroom, you could be doing real damage.

During the COVID-19 pandemic—or ideally even before it—certain bathroom habits have likely become an essential part of your daily routine. From washing your hands for 20 seconds to opening the door with your shirt sleeves, there are a handful of rules that many of us abide by before leaving a bathroom. We tend to be efficient in the restroom, especially if we're using one outside of our home. But in trying to make your trip as short-lived as possible, there's one thing that you may not be doing, which could have serious health consequences in the long run. Read on to discover what you should never leave the bathroom stall without doing.

RELATED: If You're Over 65, Never Do This In the Bathroom, Mayo Clinic Warns.

Never leave a bathroom without completely emptying your bladder.

Woman holding toilet paper going into bathroom

Whether you're in the comfort of your own home or making a pit stop on the road, using the bathroom is a regular part of everyday life. But while it's a fairly straightforward task, several parts of your body are actually working together in the process.

"When your bladder fills with urine, pressure receptors in the bladder wall send signals to your brain to see if it is a good time to urinate," says Tess Crouss, MD, a urogynecologist at Axia Women's Health Center for Urogynecology and Pelvic Health. "If it is, the brain sends signals to relax the pelvic floor musculature and urethral sphincters and signals to the bladder muscle to contract. The bladder contraction is controlled by our autonomic nervous system and is therefore not under our conscious control."

Although using the bathroom doesn't take long, rushing to finish can have a bigger impact on your bladder than you may realize. In fact, Aleece Fosnight, MSPAS, a medical advisor to Aeroflow Urology, explains that if you don't take enough time to finish completely finish urinating, your bladder may not be completely empty. "When you do not fully evacuate your bladder each time you urinate, this sends a signal to your brain letting it know that it has emptied—essentially tricking it—when in reality there is still urine left," she explains.

RELATED: Never Use This Stall in a Public Bathroom, Experts Warn.

Incomplete bladder emptying can gradually become a habit during every bathroom visit.

Public bathroom

If your bladder doesn't fully empty when you urinate, this is known as urinary retention, as noted by the Cleveland Clinic. Although symptoms vary from person to person, the medical center explains that some patients could have "a weak flow" once they start using the bathroom, or feel like they need to go but can't start urinating.

According to Fosnight, incomplete bladder emptying can not only go unnoticed but can also become a habit. "The residual of urine can cause irritation leading to urgency and urinary frequency, especially needing to void relatively quickly after just voiding," she says. "The bladder knows it hasn't completely emptied and is sending signals to the brain that there is still urine left. As time goes on and the bladder continues to not empty to completion, the body/bladder can accommodate for this and lead to lack of sensory awareness of the bladder not emptying."

One in 10 men in their 70s develop acute urinary retention in a five-year-period.

man's legs and feet standing outside open door
cliplab / Shutterstock

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease, urinary retention is most common in men. In fact, approximately 1 in 10 men over 70 years old and nearly 1 in 3 men over 80 will develop acute urinary retention, which comes suddenly and can be severe, over a five-year period. The institute further explains that incomplete bladder emptying can be due to benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), a condition where a man's prostate gland enlarges with age.

"Often as men get older, they will not completely empty their bladder," urologist Joseph Brito, MD, told Yale Medicine in 2019. "The problem there is, if your bladder's full and you empty it halfway and then drink fluids like you normally would, it fills up more quickly."

This medical condition isn't nearly as common in women, however. Only about 3 in 100,000 women develop acute urinary retention each year, per the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease. Regardless of that, Crouss points out that there are many possible reasons why women aren't completely emptying their bladders. "Some of these are pelvic floor muscle dysfunction, neurologic conditions that disrupt communication between the nervous system and bladder, conditions like diabetes that disrupt bladder sensation, inflammation or trauma from childbirth or recent surgery," she says.

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Give yourself enough time in the bathroom and seek medical attention if you have concerns.

The female senior adult patient listens as the mid adult female doctor reviews the test results on the clipboard.

Fosnight says that there are some basic things you can do for the sake of your bladder's health. For example, give yourself five to seven minutes for each of your bathroom breaks, so you never feel like you're in a rush. "Thirty to 60 seconds to undress, a full 60 to 90 seconds to allow your bladder to empty and wipe sufficiently, 30 to 60 seconds to redress, and then at least two to three minutes to wash your hands afterward," she says. 

Aside from new bathroom habits, be sure to seek medical attention if you're concerned about your bladder not fully emptying. "The only way to know for sure whether you have incomplete bladder emptying is to undergo an evaluation with a clinician to check your post-void residual (amount of urine left in the bladder after emptying)," Crouss says.

Forms of treatment for urinary retention depend on the person. This can include medications or procedures for men with enlarged prostates, along with exercises that can make women's pelvic floor muscles stronger, per the Cleveland Clinic.

RELATED: If You Notice This In The Bathroom, It Could Be an Early Sign of Diabetes, Experts Say.

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