Millions of people have bladder conditions like urinary incontinence, overactive bladder, interstitial cystitis, urinary tract infections and pelvic floor disorders. These conditions significantly impact your health and quality of life.
Your bladder is part of the urinary system. Located above your pelvic bone, it’s roughly the size of a grapefruit and holds urine produced by your kidneys. Special cells allow your bladder to expand and hold approximately 16 fluid ounces. A round sphincter muscle at the bottom of the bladder prevents urine from leaking until you are ready to empty your bladder.
Bladder and aging
As you age, your bladder becomes less elastic. It may not be able to hold as much urine as before, and you may have to go to the bathroom more often. Additionally, your bladder’s wall and pelvic floor muscles may weaken, making it harder to completely empty your bladder and causing urine to leak. This is known as urinary incontinence.
Common bladder conditions
Along with urinary incontinence, your bladder is susceptible to a variety of medical conditions.
Urinary tract infections
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are the most common outpatient infection treated in the United States. The infection can affect any part of the urinary system, but it usually impacts the bladder or urethra, the tube that empties urine from the bladder. UTIs occur when bacteria enter the urethra and spread to the bladder. Antibiotics are used to treat UTIs.
Women are 30 times more likely to have UTIs than men. They most frequently occur in young women between the ages of 14 and 24 and women over 65. Women have shorter urethras, making it easier for bacteria to enter the urinary tract. Men can get UTIs, too, but it’s less common. Male UTIs usually occur as men get older and experience an enlarged prostate gland.
UTI symptoms include:
- Abdominal pain and pressure
- Bloody or cloudy urine
- Frequent urination
- Painful, burning sensation during urination
- Urinary urgency (sudden urge to empty bladder)
- Painful sex
Some ways to prevent UTIs include:
- Drinking lots of water to flush bacteria from the urinary tract
- Empty your bladder often
- Wiping from front to back after urinating and bowel movements to prevent the spread of bacteria
- Empty your bladder after sexual intercourse
Interstitial cystitis is a chronic condition that causes bladder pressure and pain and sometimes pelvic pain. The pain may be mild or severe. The condition causes you to urinate more frequently and in smaller amounts. It affects women more than men. There’s no cure, but medications and therapies can help alleviate symptoms.
Overactive bladder (OAB) is a feeling of needing to urinate often, bladder pressure or difficulty holding back urine. OAB is a complex condition that affects 15 percent of women of all ages, although age increases the risk for OAB. Bladder infections, bladder stones or abnormal growths increase your risk.
Pelvic floor disorders
One in five people will experience a pelvic floor disorder (PFD). These conditions usually occur later in life and affect women more frequently than men. The pelvic floor is a complex system of tissues and muscles that support pelvic organs including the bladder, urethra, rectum, prostate in men and uterus, vagina and cervix in women.
The pelvic floor can be damaged by:
- Chronic constipation
- Chronic diseases
- Pelvic surgery
- Pregnancy and childbirth
- Prostate cancer surgery
- Repeated heavy lifting
Urinary incontinence or leakage and cystocele (fallen or prolapsed bladder) are common PFD disorders that affect the bladder. Cystocele occurs when the ligaments and muscles that support the bladder stretch or weaken. This allows the bladder to “drop” into the vagina. Symptoms include:
- Back and pelvic pain or fullness
- Difficulty emptying your bladder
- Difficulty inserting tampons are symptoms
- Painful and frequent urination
Therapy and surgery can effectively treat PFDs, including fallen bladder.
Call 631-376-3880 for more information or for an appointment.
Bladder health tips
Follow these tips to keep your bladder in good health.
- Get plenty of physical activity to prevent bladder problems and constipation
- Limit alcohol and caffeine if they cause you to experience frequent or urgent urination.
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Make healthy food choices including high fiber foods.
- Perform pelvic floor muscle exercises
- Quit smoking as bladder problems are more common among smokers
- Relax the muscles around the bladder when urinating so you empty the bladder completely. If urine stays in the bladder too long, it increases your risk of a urinary tract infection.
- Stay hydrated enough so you need to urinate every few hours
- Use the bathroom every three to four hours. Holding urine in your bladder can weaken your bladder muscles. Wear cotton underwear and loose-fitting clothes.
Consult a doctor if you are experiencing bladder problems. Call 866-MY-LI-DOC (866-695-4362) to find a Catholic Health physician near you.