Your bladder isn’t the most exciting organ in your body, but it’s certainly an important one. And it makes sure to remind you of that fact several times each day.
After urine is made by your kidneys, it travels to your bladder. This hollow organ is located low in your abdomen, between your pelvic bones. As the bladder gradually fills with urine, it expands like a balloon. Once it reaches capacity, it sends a message to your brain that it’s time to find a bathroom. When you empty your bladder, urine flows through a tube called the urethra and exits your body. Then the process starts over again.
Or at least, that’s what is supposed to happen. Like any complex process, this one can go awry. Bladder problems—such as an overactive bladder, infection, or cancer—are surprisingly common. Left unaddressed, they can cause serious distress and disruption in your daily life.
Fortunately, a wide range of treatments are available to help manage a bladder problem. The first step toward finding help is recognizing when you need it.
Warning Signs of a Bladder Problem
Contact your doctor if you develop these symptoms, which could indicate a bladder condition:
- Sudden, strong urges to urinate
- Small amount of urine passed despite having a strong urge to go
- Urine leaks or accidents
- Frequent urination (eight or more times in a 24-hour period)
- Repeated wakening at night to urinate
- Trouble getting started urinating or a weak urine stream
- Difficulty emptying the bladder
- Painful or burning sensation before, during, or after urination
- Bloody or cloudy-looking urine
- Recurring pain or pressure in the lower abdomen, bladder, or perineum (area in front of the anus), which may increase as the bladder fills
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- Mild, constant discomfort in the lower abdomen or bladder
Get medical help immediately if you have these symptoms, which may signal an urgent situation:
- Complete inability to urinate
- Intense pain in the lower abdomen or bladder
What’s Causing Your Symptoms?
The symptoms above could have a number of different causes. These are a few of the possibilities:
- Overactive bladder—Sudden, strong, frequent urges to urinate, which may sometimes lead to leaking urine
- Urinary incontinence—Loss of control over urination, which may be caused by overactive bladder or other conditions
- Bladder infection (also called cystitis)—The most common type of urinary tract infection, caused by bacteria getting into and infecting the bladder
- Interstitial cystitis (also called painful bladder syndrome)—Long-lasting inflammation of the bladder
- Urinary retention—An inability to empty the bladder completely, which may be caused by bladder stones blocking the urethra, nerve problems, weakened bladder muscles, or other conditions
- Bladder cancer—Cancer that starts in the lining of the bladder
Many of these bladder conditions have overlapping symptoms. And some of the symptoms can be caused by conditions outside the bladder as well. To know for sure what you’re dealing with, you need to see a doctor.
Some people feel embarrassed to bring up bladder problem at a doctor’s visit. It may help to remember that such conversations are all in a day’s work for your doctor. So don’t hesitate to share what’s going on. Once you take that crucial first step, you’ll be on your way toward getting the help you need.