4 Common Causes of Bladder Issues

For many people, bladder issues arise in midlife or beyond. Unfortunately, a good percentage of sufferers never get help, either out of embarrassment or the belief that bladder problems are an inevitable part of aging. Fortunately, this isn't true-doctors say almost all people whose bladder gives them trouble can be helped. Bladder problems range from mild to serious, and there is a wide range of corresponding therapies available. For some people, the solution may be as simple as avoiding irritants such as caffeine or limiting fluid intake close to bedtime. For others, the problem is so severe that they must undergo surgery to block leakages or reposition the bladder. Here are some common causes of bladder trouble and typical treatment methods:

Pregnancy. What pregnant woman hasn't found herself dashing to the bathroom several times a night? Pregnancy means extra weight in the abdomen, which can press down on the bladder and pelvic floor muscles. There's also a lot more fluid in your bloodstream when you're expecting. Not surprisingly, bladder issues often resolve themselves after delivery. One simple way to help yourself: Perform pelvic-floor exercises called kegels, which involve repetitively squeezing the muscles that control the flow of urine.

Childbirth. Giving birth-particularly vaginally-can weaken even the strongest sphincter muscles. Episiotomies also may damage the nerves that help you control your bladder. Many women regain bladder control within the first few weeks after giving birth, but if the problem progresses more than six weeks postpartum, get help. According to experts, letting the problem go longer than this may result in bladder control becoming a long-term problem. Unless the problem is severe, kegels are often all it takes to regain control.

Enlarged prostate. The prostate, a small gland located under the bladder, grows as men get older. The result? Bladder problems as the prostate pushes against the urethra. Men with this condition may need to visit the bathroom frequently but fail to empty their bladders satisfactorily each time. Or they may have difficulty starting the flow of urine. While medication may help, it does not alleviate all cases of enlarged prostate. Minimally invasive therapies such as radiofrequency or ultrasound may provide relief without the complications of conventional surgery.

Neurological diseases. Abnormalities in the brain may interfere with the normal signals that control bladder function. As a result, it's fairly common for patients with multiple sclerosis or Parkinson's disease to deal with bladder issues. These may include an inability to completely empty the bladder, incontinence, or an inability to start the flow of urine. Medication may provide relief from symptoms.


Sources: American Urological Association Foundation, www.urologyhealth.org; National Institutes of Health; The Mayo Clinic, www.mayoclinic.com; National Multiple Sclerosis Society, www.nationalmssociety.org.