What Is Bladder Pain?
The bladder is a hollow, muscular organ in the pelvis that is part of the urinary tract, along with the kidneys and the urine tubes (ureters and urethra). The kidneys produce urine, which travels down the ureters and collects in the bladder. When full, the bladder muscles can contract on command, sending urine flowing down the urethra and out of the body.
Bladder pain affects women more often than men and can be due to a variety of causes, including:
- Bladder infection (cystitis), in which bacteria move up the urethra to the bladder, leading to painful inflammation.
- Bladder pain syndrome (interstitial cystitis), a condition in which the bladder becomes inflamed for unknown reasons.
- Bladder stones, which occur when minerals in urine accumulate and form hard crystals that can block urine flow or irritate the urethra. In women, stones most often develop due to a prolapsed (dropped) bladder.
Depending on the diagnosis, symptoms may include:
- Frequent urination — Trips to the bathroom are needed more often than usual, including during the night.
- Pelvic pain or pressure — Discomfort may be sudden or come on gradually, and range from a dull ache to sharp and stabbing pain. In interstitial cystitis, pain may become worse as the bladder fills up, then ease after urination.
- Urgent need to urinate — The urge to urinate immediately is hard to control, even when the bladder is not full.
Treatment options will vary according to the specific condition and may include:
- Lifestyle changes — Managing fluid intake, avoiding foods that irritate the bladder, such as caffeine and alcohol, and practicing relaxation techniques are home-care practices that can help relieve symptoms.
- Medications — A combination of drugs may be prescribed to help relieve pain, reduce urinary frequency and urgency, heal damaged tissue, or kill infectious bacteria.
- Surgery — If chronic bladder pain affects quality of life or the flow of urine can no longer be controlled, surgery may be required.
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