Bladder problems in both males and females often occur without warning and can bring with them discomfort and embarrassment. Infections in the bladder or urinary tract can lead to issues such as painful urination, unusually frequent urination, or incontinence (escape of urine/leakage).
Common signs of a bladder or urinary problem can include:
• Burning sensation while urinating (potential urinary tract infection or Cystitis)
• Frequent trips to the bathroom and feeling like your bladder is never fully emptied
• A sense of urgency to urinate immediately
• Hematuria, or signs of blood in the urine (may appear red, pink, or brown)
• Incontinence (escaped or leaking urine)
As North Carolina’s premier urology practice, we specialize in diagnosing and treating a variety of bladder problems in men, women, and children. If you are experiencing symptoms of a bladder problem, please contact us to schedule an appointment with one of our specialists.
Urinary Tract Infection
Urinary tract infection (UTI) is a common infection that usually occurs when bacteria enter the opening of the urethra and multiply in the urinary tract. The urinary tract includes the kidneys, the tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder (ureters), bladder, and the tube that carries urine from the bladder (urethra). The special connection of the ureters at the bladder help prevent urine from backing up into the kidneys, and the flow of urine through the urethra helps to eliminate bacteria. Men, women, and children develop UTIs.
Urinary tract infections usually develop first in the lower urinary tract (urethra, bladder) and, if not treated, progress to the upper urinary tract (ureters, kidneys). Bladder infection (cystitis) is by far the most common UTI. Infection of the urethra is called urethritis. Kidney infection (pyelonephritis) requires urgent treatment and can lead to reduced kidney function and possibly even death in untreated, severe cases.
Approximately 8 to 10 million people in the United States develop a UTI each year. Women develop the condition much more often than men, for reasons that are not fully known, although the much shorter female urethra is suspected. The condition is rare in boys and young men.
Twenty percent of women in the United States develop a UTI and 20% of those have a recurrence. Urinary tract infections in children are more common in those under the age of 2.
Urinary Tract Infections usually occur when bacteria enter the urinary tract through the urethra and multiply in the bladder. Infection-fighting assets are found in the urinary system and help inhibit the growth of bacteria. Unfortunately, certain factors boost the chances that bacteria will enter the urinary tract and develop into an infection.
Most cases of cystitis are caused by E. coli, a type of bacteria usually found in the gastrointestinal tract. When men suffer from a UTI it is typically acquired from sexual contact. Some sexually transmitted diseases, like herpes or chlamydia, also are possible causes.
Urinary Tract Infection / Cystitis
Cystitis is a general term that includes any inflammation or infection of the bladder. Cystitis is generally caused by a bacterial infection, but it can also be caused by yeast or viruses. A unique type of cystitis known as interstitial cystitis is not caused by an infection, but it is more like an inflammation that involves the bladder lining and muscle.
For a detailed discussion of the diagnosis and management of interstitial cystitis, click here for the American Urological Association’s clinical guidelines.
Symptoms may be varied and range from severe and intensely painful to simply annoying. These include burning with urination, bladder pressure and pain, blood in the urine, and increased frequency and urgency of urination. Some patients even experience leakage of urine, also known as incontinence. Some patient likewise may experience the inability to urinate, known as urinary retention.
Treatment depends on the cause. Bacterial and yeast cystitis is treated with appropriate medicines. Viral cystitis, although rare, is generally self-limiting and requires no treatment except symptomatic. Interstitial cystitis treatment depends on the severity and duration of the symptoms and it can be very complex.
Prevention can be difficult, but obviously, patients should drink plenty of fluids and maintain good urinary tract hygiene.
How will I know if I have true cystitis and not just some irritation of the bladder causing symptoms? The only real way to know is for a urologist to take a thorough history, examine the patient and most importantly, do an analysis of the urine.
Symptoms of frequent urination in men can point to more serious conditions such as diabetes, urinary tract infection, benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) or other prostate problems. Waking up in the middle of the night to urinate is known as nocturia. Individuals suffering from severe nocturia may need to get up five or six times in the night.
This urinary problem can be a characteristic sign of a urinary tract infection. Because irritation and swelling reduces the bladder’s ability to hold urine, even small amounts of urine cause discomfort. Pregnancy, diabetes and prostate problems are other common causes of frequency.
Other possible causes include:
- Interstitial cystitis, described as a constant irritation of the bladder that is more common in women than men and typically hard to diagnose and treat.
- Diuretics and many other medications
- Radiation therapy
- Dysfunction of the bladder
- Bladder cancer
This condition can occur due to a variety of different causes. There are certain to be other possible sources of urinary urgency, so talk with your doctor about symptoms you experience. Possible causes of urgency include:
- Alcohol, caffeine and artificial sweeteners
- Bladder conditions and stones
- Bladder irritation
- Interstitial cystitis
- Urge incontinence
- Urinary tract infection
- Blocked urine flow
- Urinary Retention
- Urinary Incontinence
This problem may happen unexpectedly (acute), causing discomfort or pain, or may take place long term (chronic). As with most urinary problems there are many possible causes, including:
- Blockages in the urinary system due to urinary tract stones or birth defects
- Narrowing of the urethra due to scarring from injury or infection
- Benign enlargement of the prostate gland
- Nerve or bladder muscle problems
- Prostate cancer or kidney stones
- Side effects from some medications, such as antihistamines
The bladder is an organ located in the pelvic cavity that stores and discharges urine. Urine is produced by the kidneys, carried to the bladder by the ureters, and discharged from the bladder through the urethra. Bladder cancer accounts for approximately 90% of cancers of the urinary tract (renal pelvis, ureters, bladder, urethra).
Bladder cancer usually originates in the bladder lining, which consists of a mucous layer of surface cells that expand and deflate (transitional epithelial cells), smooth muscle, and a fibrous layer. Tumors are categorized as low-stage (superficial) or high-stage (muscle invasive).
In industrialized countries (e.g., United States, Canada, France), more than 90% of cases originate in the transitional epithelial cells (called transitional cell carcinoma; TCC). In developing countries, 75% of cases are squamous cell carcinomas caused by Schistosoma haematobium (parasitic organism) infection. Rare types of bladder cancer include small cell carcinoma, carcinosarcoma, primary lymphoma, and sarcoma.
From Hemat = blood and uria = of urine
Hematuria simply means blood in the urine. Microscopic hematuria means that the blood is only seen when the urine is examined under a microscope. Gross hematuria, on the other hand, means that there is enough blood in the urine so that the change can be appreciated with the naked eye. Obviously, gross hematuria has more blood in the urine than microscopic hematuria, but the types of diagnoses that can cause the problem are the same and the work-up or evaluation that is needed is identical.
The number of causes of hematuria is great — perhaps 20 or 25 different groups of causes.
Some are much more serious than others and require diagnosis sooner that later. These groups include cancers or malignancies, stones, infections, and blockages or obstructions to flow.
In the case of cancers, one must be concerned with every organ in the urinary tract, thus the reason to look at the entire urinary tract. Of the other groups, many are less important and most require no treatment. These may include viral infections, non-specific inflammations of the kidney such as drug reactions (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen can cause non-specific inflammation, usually without harm). Many medications can cause blood in the urine, particularly medications which thin the blood’s clotting ability, like coumadin or aspirin.
To understand the needed evaluation for hematuria, one must know the anatomy of the urinary tract in The kidneys function to make urine by filtering the blood and discarding into the urine the waste products that are no longer needed. Water and salts accompany these waste products by necessity. The urine is then transported through two narrow tubes, called ureters, to the bladder, which is the reservoir for urine in between each void. The urine exits the bladder through a channel called the urethra that first passes through the prostate and then through the penis to the outside.
The blood in the urine must come from one of the above places: kidneys, ureters, bladder, prostate, or urethra. The evaluation requires that we look at the ENTIRE urinary tract in patients with hematuria.
Bladder Control Problems
In people with an overactive bladder (OAB), the layered, smooth muscle that surrounds the bladder (detrusor muscle) contracts spastically, sometimes without a known cause, which results in sustained, high bladder pressure and the urgent need to urinate (called urgency). Normally, the detrusor muscle contracts and relaxes in response to the volume of urine in the bladder and the initiation of urination.
People with OAB often experience urgency at inconvenient and unpredictable times and sometimes lose control before reaching a toilet. Thus, overactive bladder interferes with work, daily routine, intimacy and sexual function; causes embarrassment; and can diminish self-esteem and quality of life.
Urination (micturition) involves processes within the urinary tract and the brain. The slight need to urinate is sensed when urine volume reaches about one-half of the bladder’s capacity. The brain suppresses this need until a person initiates urination.
Once urination has been initiated, the nervous system signals the detrusor muscle to contract into a funnel shape and expel urine. Pressure in the bladder increases and the detrusor muscle remains contracted until the bladder empties. Once empty, pressure falls and the bladder relaxes and resumes its normal shape.
For a detailed discussion of the diagnosis and management of overactive bladder, click here for the American Urological Association’s clinical guidelines.
Urinary incontinence has recently gained considerable attention in the United States. It is estimated that approximately 10 to 20 million people (10-35% of the U.S. population) are suffering from urinary incontinence. Nearly 50 percent of the institutionalized elderly are incontinent.
The estimated cost of diagnosis and treatment of this group is $15 billion per year. Though these numbers are staggering, about half of incontinent patients do not alert their physician or family members of their problem. Unfortunately, most of these individuals assume nothing can be done for incontinence or feel that leakage is a normal part of aging.
Urinary incontinence is defined as the involuntary loss of urine from the bladder. It is important to remember that not all incontinence is the same. There are several types of incontinence:
- Stress incontinence
- Urge incontinence
- Mixed incontinence
- Overflow incontinence
- Functional incontinence
Correct diagnosis of the type of incontinence is the first and most important step in developing an appropriate and effective treatment plan for incontinence.
This condition may occur due to a variety of different reasons, to include weak pelvic muscles or diabetes. Common causes include:
- Diminished skin thickness or drying in the vagina or urethra, particularly after menopause in women
- Inflamed prostate gland or prostate surgery in men
- Some medications
- Stool build-up of in the bowels
- Urinary tract infection
- Elevated calcium levels