Health Watch -- Make a Pit Stop

Health Watch is a Public Service of the Office of News and Publications and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.

Comfort isn't the only reason to take regular rest breaks when you're driving.

If you've ever been trapped in a car on a long trip with someone who hates to stop, you've now got a medical reason to make that pit stop. Doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas say a full bladder is much more likely to be damaged in a car accident than an empty bladder. The damage occurs when a person with a full bladder is wearing a seatbelt across the lower abdomen and is then jolted by a crash.

Dr. Erwin Thal, a UT Southwestern urologist, says it's like a balloon. It's hard to break an uninflated or underinflated balloon. But when a balloon is fully inflated, it pops easily. A full bladder may rupture when it's subjected to blunt-force trauma.

No one plans on having a car accident, but in case one does happen, you can prevent bladder injuries by relieving yourself regularly instead of getting to the point where you're uncomfortable. That's probably good advice to follow whether or not you'll be in a car.

Dr. Thal says it's also important to wear your seatbelt - and wear it properly. The belt should fit across your hips, not across your lower abdomen. Without it, you'll risk far worse injuries than just a damaged bladder.

Signs of bladder trauma include blood in the urine, difficulty urinating, a weak urine stream, fever and severe back pain.