The bladder is a sac-like organ located in the lower part of the abdomen. Its function is to store urine sent from the kidneys until that urine is released from the body. Bladder issues occur in women of all ages. They can affect your quality of life, including daily activities, sexual health, and emotional well-being.
Find a Doctor and schedule an appointment at a Dignity Health location near you to discuss your bladder issues.
Specific signs and symptoms of bladder problems vary from woman to woman. Symptoms also depend on the type of bladder issue and its severity. Some common signs and symptoms of bladder issues include:
- Bladder leakage
- Pain or a burning sensation during urination
- Cloudy urine
- Persistent, strong urge to urinate
- Urinating frequently in small amounts
- Frequent urination (more than eight times during the day or more than two times at night)
- Urine that smells strong
- Blood in the urine
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- Pressure or pain in the lower abdomen
Many bladder issues are caused by a bacterial infection that gets into the urinary tract. These infections can be introduced in the following ways:
- Sexual intercourse (particularly with new partners or increased intensity)
- Improper hygiene when urinating
- Backsplash when using the toilet
- The use of tampons, douches, and spermicides
- Bowel incontinence
Other potential causes of bladder issues that are not directly related to infection include:
- Defect in the bladder lining
- Allergic reaction
- Autoimmune reaction
- Exposure to chemicals
- Chronic bladder irritation
- Urinary blockage
- Parasitic infections
- Previous exposure to radiation
There are a number of bladder issues that can affect women, and the most common are:
- Urinary tract infection (UTI) that affects the bladder (cystitis)
- Urinary incontinence
- Overactive bladder
- Interstitial cystitis (also known as bladder pain syndrome)
- Bladder cancer
Women are uniquely prone to bladder issues, particularly as they get older or if they are pregnant. One reason for this is their anatomy, with a shorter urethra than men and proximity of the rectum and anus to the urethral opening. Factors that increase the risk of bladder issues include:
- Pregnancy:Some of the muscles that control the bladder and urethra (the tube that urine travels down to leave the body) can stretch out of shape during pregnancy.
- Childbirth:Vaginal childbirth can stretch and weaken pelvic muscles that affect the urinary system.
- Sexual activity:The more sexually active a woman is, the higher her risk for bladder issues.
- Birth control:Some forms of birth control, such as the diaphragm and spermicides, can increase the risk of bladder issues.
- Hormonal changes:Bladder issues are more common after menopause due to hormone changes and changes in the urinary tract.
- Overweight:Being overweight increases the risk of bladder problems, especially urinary incontinence.
- Skin and hair color:Fair-skinned, red-headed women are at increased risk, particularly for interstitial cystitis.
- Medical conditions:Diabetes, for instance, increases the risk of urinary tract infections.
- Hysterectomy:This can cause damage to the muscles of the pelvic floor, increasing the risk of bladder issues.
- Autoimmune disease:Women with conditions like fibromyalgia or irritable bowel syndrome can sometimes be at increased risk for bladder issues.
- Neurological disorders:Disorders such as Parkinson’s disease or stroke can sometimes interfere with the nerves that are associated with bladder control.
When it comes to bladder cancer, other risk factors include smoking, family history, a past of chronic bladder inflammation, being Caucasian, and being older.
The best prevention for bladder issues is to ensure you have good personal hygiene and to stay well hydrated. In addition, do the following:
- Consume a healthy diet of fresh, whole foods.
- Get plenty of exercise.
- Stop smoking.
- Maintain strong pelvic floor muscles.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Minimize your intake of irritants to the bladder, such as caffeine, acidic foods, and alcohol.
- Keep chronic conditions, such as diabetes, well managed.
The information contained in this article is meant for educational purposes only and should not replace advice from your healthcare provider.