It’s an all-too-common feeling: You’ve left work, run some errands and ordered Postmates for dinner from the convenience of your car. You think you’ve got everything under control (the contents of your bladder most of all), but once you exit your vehicle and insert your key into the front door of your place, all is lost: You’re about to piss yourself.
Why does the bladder seem to blow the moment you arrive home — or if not then, the moment you reach the bathroom?
Two words: “Latchkey incontinence.” No joke, it was the actual terminology used in an actual study of patients with overactive bladders. The study’s researchers defined it as “a loss of urine that occurs when one arrives home and puts the key in the lock of one’s front door.” “Latchkey incontinence” also entails the need to go even when you don’t actually expel piss dribbles.
Basically, our brains associate our homes with our toilets, and our toilets with the need to tinkle. This is why, even when already at home, a simple stroll into the bathroom to grab a Q-Tip or tweezers can turn into a urination red alert.
According to Jamin Brahmbhatt, a urologist in Florida, peeing is a much more complex dance between the mind and body than you might think. “The ability to control how you urinate requires a balance between the muscles and your nerves around your bladder and your urethra working in synch,” he explains. “Some of these functions happen automatically, and some require manual control by the muscles that you naturally control. So when urine is filling up inside your bladder, your bladder naturally expands. When you go to the bathroom, your sphincter around your urethra will relax and your bladder will start to squeeze. This process sounds simple, but it does require the muscles around your urethra, which we call your pelvic floor, to all work and synch.”
He continues, “To keep your bladder healthy, I recommend my patients empty their bladder before they start having extreme ‘got-to-go’ feelings. There’s only so much the bladder can tolerate, and this process gets more complicated with the presence of a prostate, which naturally grows as men get older. All these processes can also be affected by diabetes, strokes, infections and many other medical problems.”
What a pisser.