Diagnosis of bladder issues
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of bladder issues and are concerned about your bladder health, it’s time to see your doctor. Your doctor will want to discuss your symptoms, lifestyle, and medical and family history.
Your doctor will also want a urine sample to send for analysis to determine whether there is any bacterial infection. In addition, your doctor may perform a pelvic exam during the initial appointment, so be sure to schedule it when you are not menstruating.
Depending on the suspected issue, your doctor may also perform a cystoscopy, which involves the insertion of a tube with a camera on the end into the urethra and up into the bladder. This will give them a good view of the interior of the bladder so they can look for abnormalities.
In many instances, a prescription of antibiotics is enough to treat your bladder issue. However, treatment and prevention options depend on your specific issue, risk factors, lifestyle habits, and medical history. They include:
- Lifestyle changes: Losing weight (if you are overweight) and eating a healthy diet can improve your overall health and decrease bladder issues. Other useful lifestyle changes include drinking cranberry juice, plenty of water, and fewer caffeinated beverages.
- Bladder training: This treatment plan for incontinence and excessive urination involves increasing your ability to hold urine. It includes practicing Kegel exercises and urinating on a schedule.
- Medication: Other medications can be prescribed to decrease your urge to urinate and relax the muscles and nerves that affect your bladder.
- Medical devices: Certain devices deliver electric current to specific nerves and muscles in the urinary tract. Healthcare providers sometimes use them to treat an overactive bladder.
- Surgery: Doctors may use surgery (such as bladder suspension or incontinence sling surgery) to correct bladder issues if other treatments do not provide sufficient relief. Surgery may also be done if bladder cancer has been diagnosed, during which part or all of the bladder will be removed.
When you make an appointment, you will need to be prepared to:
- Discuss your symptoms
- Discuss your family history
- Discuss your lifestyle
- Provide a list of medications you are taking
- Provide a urine sample
- Ask any questions you have (writing them down helps)
When preparing for a cystoscopy, it is important to take any antibiotics prescribed by your doctor prior to the procedure. You may also be given general anesthesia, so you will need to arrange for a friend or family member to drive you home. Plan ahead so you can rest for a day or two once the procedure is done.
Your recovery from bladder issues will depend on the specific problem you are experiencing, as well as its severity. In many cases, antibiotics, a change in lifestyle, bladder training, and an increase in pelvic floor strength can eliminate the cause of the issue, or at least significantly improve your quality of life.
Some conditions cannot be cured entirely but must instead be managed with one or more of the following:
- Medications (anticholinergics, mirabegron, alpha-blockers, topical estrogen, dimethyl sulfoxide)
- Devices (urethral insert, pessary)
- Interventional therapies (bulking material injections, Botox, nerve stimulators)
- Surgery (sling procedures, bladder neck suspension, bladder resection, bladder removal)
Your recovery time will depend on the condition and severity, and procedure done. In some cases, recovery can take many weeks.
There can be complications associated with bladder issues. The specific complications you may be facing will depend on the type and severity of the bladder issue. One of the most significant complications is related to your mental and emotional health. Bladder issues can cause embarrassment and anxiety, disturbances in sleep, and problems with sexuality. Other potential complications can include:
- Recurring infections
- Kidney damage
- Narrowing of the urethra
- Skin issues (rashes, sores)
- Reduced bladder capacity
Do not be shy or embarrassed to discuss urinary concerns. With appropriate diagnosis and treatment, many women are able to resume their usual activities and enjoy complete bladder health.
The information contained in this article is meant for educational purposes only and should not replace advice from your healthcare provider.