Causes of Bladder Problems
by Diane Ursu
The bladder is a complex organ. It consists of cells that stretch and shrink. It relies on impulses from the brain to properly function. It has a protective lining that prevents urine from irritating the bladder. It is a sterile environment. Any problem with one of these structures can lead to urinary problems, many of which share common causes.
Painful, frequent urination is a symptom of bladder infection. The pain can progress from painful urination to constant pelvic pain. In severe cases, gross hematuria may result. A bladder infection, or urinary tract infection (UTI), is the result of bacteria entering the urinary tract. It is more common in females due to a shorter urethra and closer proximity to the anus. Bacteria enters the urethra and moves into the bladder. In more advanced stages, the bacteria can move into the ureters and kidneys resulting in flank pain.
Childbirth is a common cause of urinary incontinence in women. Childbirth may weaken the pelvic floor muscles which support the bladder and other pelvic organs. This results in an anatomical shift of the organs. The nerves leading to the bladder can also be damaged during childbirth. All of these traumas can contribute to incontinence that may not develop immediately after childbirth. The bladder may leak during coughing or sneezing. The bladder sphincter, the muscle that controls the flow of urine from the bladder, may weaken and allow urine to leak. The bladder may spasm and force urine through the urethra.
Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia
The prostate gland is present in men and sits just below the bladder by the urethra. As men age, the prostate gland becomes enlarged. It is generally a benign, or non-cancerous, condition that may or may not produce symptoms. Most commonly, emptying the bladder becomes an issue. It is difficult to begin urination. The urine stream is often weak. It is accompanied by the frequent urge to urinate, even into the nighttime hours, since the bladder cannot be completely emptied. The inability to empty the bladder can lead to a urinary tract infection and hematuria, which is blood in the urine.
Trauma to the nerves associated with the bladder can lead to bladder problems. Childbirth and spinal cord accidents can cause nerve damage. Nocturnal enuresis, or bedwetting, is the inability of the brain to signal the bladder to hold urine until arousal from sleep. Nerve impulses may stimulate the muscle around the bladder to spasm, causing urge incontinence. Nerve damage may block the ability of the brain to determine if the bladder is full. This can lead to atonic bladder, or the stretching of the bladder due to the inability to adequately empty itself of urine.
Bladder Wall Abnormalities
The inner lining of the bladder, the glycocalyx, protects the bladder wall from urine by forming a mucus layer. If this layer is inadequate, urine may cause ulceration and inflammation of the bladder wall, which is characteristic of interstitial cystitis. This inflammation is most likely due to the potassium content within the urine. The potassium can enter the bladder muscle and cause inflammation.