A person uses a bladder diary to record information about when they urinate or feel the urge to urinate. This information may include how much they drank, what time they urinated, and more.

A doctor may recommend a person keep a bladder diary when they suspect something is affecting their urinary control. This could include health conditions, such as a bladder infection, or other factors, such as medications affecting the bladder.

Read on to learn more about using a bladder diary, diagnostic tests for urinary problems, and when to consider speaking with a healthcare professional.

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A bladder diary helps a person track their urinary habits. This may help a doctor diagnose the underlying cause of their symptoms. Different sections of the bladder diary record different types of information, including:

  • how much fluid they drink
  • how much urine they pass
  • when or how often they have the urge to urinate
  • when and how much urine they may leak
  • what they were doing when they experienced a urine leak

The specific length of time a person needs to keep a bladder diary can vary. However, for most people, it is for a few weeks.

A person may also want to keep a note of any medications they are taking and if they affect how often the person passes urine.

Remembering to keep a bladder diary can be difficult at first — especially at night, as there are several columns to fill out whenever a person uses the bathroom or experiences a leak. Nevertheless, filling in the diary accurately is incredibly helpful for a doctor when they are trying to diagnose the cause of a bladder condition.

A bladder diary usually has a 3-day template — a person can print out additional sheets if they need to. The columns a person needs to fill out include:

  • Time: A person records when they either passed urine or experienced a leak.
  • Fluids in: A person records how much they drank before urinating. If a person has consumed several drinks, they should include all of them.
  • Urine passed: A person can use a measuring jug to record how much urine they passed. If a person cannot use a measuring jug, they tick the column to record that they passed urine.
  • Strong urge to pass urine: A person records if they felt they needed to use the bathroom urgently — or not if that was the case.
  • Leakage: A person records leaks that occurred when they were not using the bathroom.
  • Reason for leaking: A person lists what they were doing at the time of a leak. Though, sometimes, they may not know why the leak occurred.

In addition to suggesting the use of a bladder diary, a doctor may also request tests to exclude some conditions. These may include:

  • Urinalysis: Healthcare professionals test urine samples for bladder infections, kidney issues, and diabetes.
  • Blood tests: Doctors may use them to measure kidney function and any chemical imbalances within the body.
  • Urodynamic testing: This type of testing may analyze how well the urinary tract works and detect problems in the bladder, urethra, and sphincters.
  • Cystoscopy: A cystoscope is a long, thin tube that has a camera. A doctor uses it to see inside the urethra and bladder.
  • Imaging: Healthcare professionals may use various scans to produce images of the urinary tract and nervous system to better understand how well the urinary tract works.

People with bladder control problems, or urinary incontinence, may benefit from using a bladder diary.

General health changes and chronic conditions

When someone has urinary incontinence, there are many potential causes, such as:

Nerve damage

A common cause of urinary incontinence is nerve damage. The nervous system sends and receives messages from the bladder to the brain to determine when the bladder is full and when to contract and relax sphincter muscles.

Conditions that affect the nervous system and can cause urinary problems include:


Lifestyle factors can also increase the risk of a person developing urinary incontinence, such as:

Pelvic floor conditions

When a person has a weakened pelvic floor, they may find they leak urine when they laugh or cough, this may happen after:

Prostate conditions

When the prostate increases in size it may cause urine incontinence. This does not necessarily indicate a person has prostate cancer. However, it is important that if someone does have these symptoms, they speak with a doctor:

  • problems with urinating
  • taking longer than usual to pass urine
  • difficulty fully emptying the bladder

If a person uses the bathroom more frequently than usual but has not spoken with a healthcare professional yet, keeping a bladder diary 2–3 days before seeing their doctor can help during the initial consultation.

Different conditions cause different symptoms, and a diary can help uncover why, for example, a person is having strong urges to urinate, despite not having leakages. Or, why a person has a lack of bladder control but does not have strong urges to urinate.

If a person is experiencing any of the following signs and symptoms they should speak with a doctor:

  • inability to hold urine when resisting the urge to go to the bathroom
  • leaking urine when engaging in everyday activities, such as lifting and bending
  • leaking urine with no urge or warning
  • wetting the bed while sleeping
  • leaking urine during sexual activity

Other symptoms, such as pelvic pain, urinary retention, or blood in the urine, may indicate a medical emergency, and a person should see a doctor right away.

People use bladder diaries to record how often they pass urine, their urge to pass urine, and urine volume.

A doctor may use a person’s bladder diary to help diagnose the cause of their bladder issues. A person may also need to undergo diagnostic tests, such as blood tests, urinalysis, and imaging.

There are many possible causes of urinary incontinence, including aging, experiencing vaginal childbirth, and prostate conditions. A person should speak with a doctor if they experience any bladder problems.