The bladder is a key organ in the urinary system.
The bladder is one of the primary organs that comprise the urinary tract system. The bladder has two primary functions: to store and void urine. In simple terms, kidneys empty their contents – through the ureter into the bladder – where urine is stored prior to emptying. The bladder plays a key role, in that it keeps urine flowing in the proper direction, not allowing urine to backflow into the kidneys. This outward flow ensures that the urinary tract is periodically emptied of waste contents. If the bladder does not function properly, due to infection, bladder stones, or tumors, a urologist is often consulted to treat these conditions.
There are several urologic conditions associated with the bladder, urine, and voiding. One of the most common ailments is urinary incontinence, which is the involuntary loss of urine. The types of urinary incontinence can include stress, urge, mixed, overflow, and functional incontinence. Likewise, overactive bladder symptoms affect millions of men and women. In addition to these conditions, individuals may experience bladder infections, interstitial cystitis, bladder stones, bladder prolapse, or bladder cancer.
Bladder infections are very common among women because the urethra, a conduit for urine to leave the body, is shorter than their male counterparts. Because the urethra is short, bacteria can easily enter the bladder from outside sources. Normally, bacteria is washed out of the bladder during normal voiding. Occasionally, bacteria remains which causes infection and bothersome symptoms. Bladder infections are less common in males since the urethra is longer. Due to its length, the bladder is situated further away from the outside of the body.
Interstitial cystitis (IC), also known as chronic pelvic pain, is a bladder disorder that affects both men and women. However, IC occurs more often among the female population. As it develops, the symptoms of interstitial cystitis closely resemble those associated with a recurrent or chronic bladder infection. With this disorder, the bladder wall can become inflamed and irritated. This inflammation can lead to scarring and stiffening of the bladder, decreased bladder capacity, pinpoint bleeding and in rare cases, ulcers in the bladder lining. Medical opinion suggests that the cause of IC may be an autoimmune reaction in which the body’s defense system targets normal bladder tissue.
Bladder stones develop when the minerals found in urine bind together and crystallize. If bladder stones are small enough, they can pass out of the system without causing problems. However, if they are undetected and begin to grow, they can become very large. In this case, surgery may be required to remove the stones. Small or large, bladder stones can lead to infection and other bladder problems.
Bladder prolapse, or cystocele, occurs when the bladder falls out of its proper position into the vagina. It may also protrude outside the body. Many factors can cause the bladder to drop including weak pelvic floor muscles and having a hysterectomy.
Bladder cancer typically starts on the inside of the bladder wall (bladder lining). This fragile cancerous tissue may bleed, causing a red tint to urine. Blood in the urine (hematuria) is a primary symptom of bladder cancer. This cancer often stays confined to the inside of the bladder wall and can be removed surgically. However, left undetected, it can spread into deeper layers within the bladder.
If you are experiencing any health issues associated with the bladder, contact Urology Austin to schedule and appointment.