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Dear (Bladder) Diary: How to Keep Track of Urinary Symptoms

May 28, 2024 10:45:13 AM / by Amy Landrum, AGNP-C CWOCN

Amy Landrum, AGNP-C CWOCN

Getting back to the basics with a bladder diary can help you pinpoint patterns, symptoms of illness, and situations that could cause leakage.

When you started using catheters, you may have been asked to complete a bladder diary—a simple chart used to track symptoms of urinary incontinence, as well as fluid intake, urine production, and leakage.

But long after self-cathing has been established, you may be asked to do one again. This is because a bladder diary can be helpful to understand your bladder function and identify urinary symptoms. For example, are your symptoms worse after eating or drinking a certain kind of food? Do they worsen if you don’t drink enough liquids?

It’s difficult to answer these questions without keeping track of your symptoms. Your healthcare provider may ask you to keep a detailed bladder diary for three days to a week. The records you keep can help your healthcare team track symptoms and identify patterns that can help you identify and avoid urinary issues.

Related Reading: 12 Ways to Promote Bladder Health if Using a Catheter

Why Do I Need to Keep a Bladder Diary?

If you’ve been using a catheter for a while, you may be wondering why you need to keep a bladder diary again. Here’s a few reasons why a long-time catheter user might want to keep track of their symptoms.

1. Updates to Your Cathing Schedule

Maybe you’ve started a new job or you’re recovering after surgery. Schedule shifts can disrupt your urinary cycles. Tracking input and output with a bladder diary can help you understand how to optimize your self-cathing schedule in the following ways:

  • Optimal times to cath
  • When and how much to drink
  • Triggers to avoid high or low urine output

2. New Symptoms

If your urinary output has changed unexpectedly, it may be a symptom of an underlying condition. For example, you may be experiencing urinary retention, a condition where your bladder doesn’t empty completely. Tracking your symptoms in a bladder diary can help your healthcare provider identify and treat the root cause of your symptoms.

3. New Treatment or Medication

Some medications intentionally cause urinary retention to prevent leaking between self-cathing events. Anticholinergic medications are a class of medicines that block ACh neurotransmitters, which help contract the bladder. A bladder diary can help doctors determine medication dosage, timing, and effectiveness.

Surgeries can cause swelling, inflammation, or unexpected blockages that should be treated. After surgery, you may be asked to keep a bladder diary to spot symptoms and treat complications.

Related Reading: Download a free bladder diary from the Urological Care Foundation.

What Should I Record in my Bladder Diary?

Most bladder diaries track a few essential aspects of your urinary habits. If you’re using a bladder diary, follow these steps:

  1. If you use a drainage bag, record the number of times you empty it throughout the day.
  2. Note the volume of urine passed or drained with the catheter during each emptying.
  3. Document your fluid intake by tracking the amount of fluids you consume, when you drink them, and what your drinking (e.g. water, tea, juice, etc.).
  4. Include symptoms such as urgency or frequent urination.

Your healthcare provider will review your notes to discover possible triggers such as specific drinks or activities that impact your daily life. Together, you can make a plan to stay ahead of self-cathing needs and protect your urinary health.

It can be frustrating as a veteran catheter user to have to get back to the basics. But going through the steps of keeping a bladder diary can help you adjust to schedule and lifestyle changes, as well as identify and prevent serious illness.

Experts are standing by to support all your supply needs. Fill out the form or call 866-897-8588.

Disclaimer: This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. For medical advice, please speak with your healthcare provider.


Amy Landrum, AGNP-C CWOCN

Written by Amy Landrum, AGNP-C CWOCN

As a nurse practitioner and WOCN specializing in wound, ostomy, and continence care, Amy brings a wealth of clinical experience in hospital, rehabilitation, and home health settings. Amy is passionate about helping patients navigate the healthcare system and obtain the resources they need.

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