Dr. Roach: Can bladder with no urge to ‘go’ bounce back?

Keith Roach
To Your Health

Dear Dr. Roach: I am going to be 98 in July. A few months ago, I had a bad cough for weeks. My internist gave me guaifenesin with codeine. The medicine got rid of the cough, but I developed the inability to urinate. I went to the ER and they drained 2 liters of urine from my bladder. I had to go home with a catheter. I don’t have pain, but I still do not have the urge to urinate. My urologist performed a few tests and said that I would need the catheter for the rest of my life. Can I do anything to help my bladder go back to normal?

— L.L.B.

Dear L.L.B.: Urinary retention is the inability to drain the bladder. It’s seen in both men and women, but the more likely causes for each are very different.

One common cause is medication side effects. Codeine can cause urinary retention; however, this should go away within a few hours of stopping the medicine. Given the timing you describe, I can’t believe it is due to the cough medicine, and I am sure your urologist looked at any other medicines you might be taking.

Men and women both also can develop an obstruction to urinary flow. In men, this is usually due to an enlarged prostate, whereas in women, it may be from other anatomic abnormalities that come with aging. But the fact that you were holding 2 liters of urine in your bladder and had no urge to urinate suggests a neurological cause as your underlying problem. These are often difficult to treat. Some causes require urgent treatment, such as spinal cord injury; you would have known if that were the problem.

Your urologist may do (or have done) more extensive tests on your bladder function and the function of the associated nerves. Talk to your urologist a bit more about what he or she suspects as the underlying cause, and write back.

Dear Dr. Roach: I am writing because my mother is convinced that eggs are unhealthy. I’ve read that eggs are the most complete food on Earth, except for bee pollen. What risk is there to eating an egg or two per day?

— J.Y.

Dear J.Y.: There is no such thing as a complete food. The science is clear that a diverse diet is best, since no single food contains all the nutrients for ideal health. Both eggs and bee pollen have a wide variety of amino acids, fats and vitamins, but are still incomplete.

The health benefits and harms of eggs continue to be debated. Eggs contain saturated fat and cholesterol, and although most data suggest that excess amounts of these increase heart disease risk, the net health effect of eggs remains uncertain, with some studies showing modest harm from more than seven eggs per week while others show none (but no net benefit, either). Given the uncertainty, I recommend no more than seven eggs per week for the lowest heart disease risk, but a few more is unlikely to have a major harmful effect.

Readers may email questions to ToYourGoodHealth@med.cornell.edu.