Can a bladder hold 800ml?

The human bladder is a hollow, muscular organ that stores urine before it leaves the body. The average adult bladder can hold between 400-600ml of urine at one time. However, bladders are extremely elastic and can expand well beyond their average capacity when needed. So can a bladder actually hold 800ml of urine? Let’s take a closer look.

What is the Function of the Bladder?

The main role of the bladder is to store urine produced by the kidneys before it exits the body. The bladder itself is located in the pelvis and is made up of muscle tissue, called the detrusor muscle. When the bladder fills, the detrusor muscle relaxes and allows the bladder to expand. When the bladder reaches its maximal expansion point, signals are sent to the brain that the bladder is full, triggering the need to urinate. During urination, the brain signals the detrusor muscle to contract, while simultaneously relaxing the sphincter muscles around the urethra, allowing urine to flow out.

Bladder Capacity

The average bladder capacity is 400-600ml. However, there is huge variability in bladder capacity among adults. Bladder capacity depends on a number of factors including:

  • Age – Bladder capacity increases rapidly during childhood and reaches adult size by age 5. Capacity then slowly declines with advancing age.
  • Sex – Men generally have larger bladders than women.
  • Fluid intake – Chronic heavy fluid intake can gradually increase bladder capacity over time.
  • Disease – Conditions like overactive bladder syndrome can reduce capacity.
  • Pregnancy – The growing fetus puts pressure on the bladder, reducing capacity.

Maximal Bladder Capacity

While the average adult bladder holds 400-600ml, what is the upper limit or maximal volume the bladder can hold? There are a few key points:

  • There is no definitive maximal bladder volume – volumes over 1000-2000ml have been reported in some rare cases.
  • Bladder capacity varies widely among healthy individuals based on the factors above.
  • When pushed to extremes, most adult bladders can exceed 1000ml.
  • Women tend to have slightly lower maximal volumes than men.

In most cases, the maximal capacity far exceeds what would reasonably be reached on a regular basis. However, there are some situations where the maximal capacity can be tested, such as during urine retention tests or specific medical procedures.

Can a Healthy Bladder Hold 800ml?

Based on the available evidence, a normally functioning bladder in a healthy adult should have no problem holding up to 800ml of urine, at least for a short period of time. Here are some key reasons why:

  • Most adult bladders can accommodate 500-1000ml at full capacity.
  • Bladders are highly elastic and expandable organs designed to accomodate increasing volumes.
  • 800ml falls well within the range of maximal volumes reported in various urodynamic studies.
  • Instances of human bladder volumes reaching past 1000-2000ml have been reported in some extreme cases.

However, consistently reaching volumes of 800ml on a regular basis may increase risk of issues like incontinence or potential bladder damage. The key is that once in awhile, the occassional high volume should not pose problems.

Bladder Anatomy and 800ml Capacity

Looking at the anatomy of the bladder further confirms the ability to stretch to 800ml:

  • Bladder walls contain folds and wrinkles that allow significant expansion.
  • The detrusor muscle is composed of flexible tissue that can stretch.
  • As volume increases, the bladder balloon up and out within the pelvis.
  • High bladder volumes trigger signals to the brain but do not directly damage tissues.

Barring any underlying medical conditions, the bladder was designed to accommodate flexible volumes. So anatomy and function support the ability to tolerate 800ml.

At What Point Does Bladder Capacity Become Unsafe?

While 800ml should not pose issues for a healthy bladder, at what point do volumes become unsafe or risk damaging the bladder? There is no definitive cutoff, but some general guidelines include:

  • Over 500-600ml approaches high normal volumes for bladder capacity.
  • Over 1000ml is considered very high volume and may increase risk.
  • 1500ml or more starts approaching the upper limits of bladder capacity.
  • 2000ml or more is extremely high and may stretch the bladder past safe limits.

However, there is huge individual variability based on age, sex, and health status. The main risks of very high bladder volumes include:

  • Acute injury – This may include tearing of bladder tissues or damage to muscles or nerves.
  • Chronic overdistention – Repeated overstretching of tissues beyond limits which may weaken the bladder wall.
  • Incontinence – Overflow incontinence can occur when extreme urine volumes leak out.
  • Infection – Stagnant urine and bladder distention can increase infection risk.
  • Kidney damage – Extreme volumes may back urine up into the kidneys.

Thus, while sporadic volumes up to 800ml should be fine, consistent extremely high volumes could potentially stress the bladder past safe limits.

Normal vs Abnormal Bladder Capacities

What’s considered a normal vs abnormally high bladder capacity? Here are some general guidelines:

Bladder Volume Interpretation
100-400ml Below normal capacity
400-600ml Normal capacity
600-800ml High normal capacity
800-1000ml Abnormally high capacity
1000ml+ Severely high capacity

Volumes under 400ml may indicate conditions like overactive bladder or frequent urination. Volumes over 600-800ml are above average capacity and may signify issues like urinary retention.

Causes of Increased Bladder Capacity

Some causes of increased bladder capacity include:

  • Blockage of urine flow – This may be from prostate enlargement, bladder stones, or a urethral stricture.
  • Nerve damage – Diabetes, spinal cord injury, or pelvic surgery can damage the nerves that trigger urination.
  • Medications – Anticholinergics, antidepressants, and calcium channel blockers can decrease bladder contractions.
  • Excess fluid intake – Consuming excess amounts of fluid over time can gradually expand capacity.
  • Pregnancy – Pressure from the uterus can inhibit complete bladder emptying.

In most cases, abnormally high volumes are not normal and should be evaluated by a medical provider. Treatment depends on the underlying cause.

Factors That Can Temporarily Increase Capacity

While diseases like nerve damage can permanently increase bladder capacity, there are also some situational factors that can temporarily expand capacity including:

  • Fluid intake – Consuming large volumes of fluid over a short time will expand capacity.
  • Diuretics – These medications used for high blood pressure can rapidly fill the bladder.
  • Cold temperature – Cold constricts blood vessels, decreasing urine production and expanding capacity.
  • Holding urine – Voluntarily delaying urination allows the bladder to stretch more.
  • Anxiety – Stress and anxiety can inhibit signals to empty the bladder.

In most cases, capacities will return to baseline once the temporary situation has resolved or the bladder is emptied.

How to Measure Bladder Capacity

There are a few different techniques that can be used to evaluate bladder capacity:

  • Urodynamic testing – This test involves filling the bladder with fluid and measuring the volume at which urgency and leakage occurs.
  • Bladder scan – Ultrasound can be used to measure bladder volume after urination to see how much remains.
  • Catheterization – Inserting a catheter drains all urine from the bladder, allowing measurement of volume.
  • Voiding diary – Having the patient record fluid intake vs urine output over time.

These tests help determine if capacity is below, within or above the normal range. They may be used for patients with incontinence, frequent urination, retention, or other urinary problems.

Is it Safe to Hold 800ml of Urine?

For healthy individuals, temporarily holding up to 800ml of urine should not cause harm. However, it’s important to keep these precautions in mind:

  • Do not exceed capacity limits or “hold it” when feeling strong urge to void.
  • Take breaks to urinate during prolonged retention.
  • See a doctor if you experience pain, difficulty voiding, or incontinence.
  • Those with diabetes, nerve damage, or bladder issues should be more cautious.
  • Holding urine regularly can potentially lead to overdistention.
  • Try to maintain normal voiding habits as much as possible.

While sporadically holding higher volumes like 800ml is unlikely to be harmful, making it a regular habit could be problematic. Speak to a urologist if you have concerns.

When to Seek Medical Care

You should speak to your doctor if you experience:

  • Inability to empty the bladder fully
  • Needing to urinate frequently (more than every 2 hours)
  • Sudden onset of incontinence or leaking urine
  • Weak urine stream or straining to void
  • Pain or burning with urination
  • Blood in the urine
  • Fever along with urinary symptoms
  • Large amounts of urine output

These could indicate a potential bladder issue that needs further evaluation. Catching problems early is important for proper treatment.


In summary, a healthy adult bladder should be able to accommodate holding about 800ml of urine temporarily without issues. This is because the average bladder capacity is 400-600ml but can stretch to hold 500-1000ml at maximal capacity when necessary. Exceeding capacity too often however could potentially lead to bladder dysfunction. Being aware of normal vs abnormal capacities along with any lower urinary tract symptoms is important to identify any emerging bladder problems that may need medical care.

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