The urinary bladder is a hollow, elastic, muscular organ in the lower abdomen and pelvis. Its function is to collect and store urine that is formed in the kidneys, which is then removed from the body through a tube called the urethra during the process of urination. Bladder pain is discomfort that originates in the bladder and may manifest as pain in the lower abdomen, lower back, or groin.
Bladder pain may be associated with conditions such as:
- Urinary tract infection: usually caused by bacteria and is more common in women
- Interstitial cystitis: a chronic condition in which the urinary bladder becomes inflamed, irritated, and stiff. Pain worsens as the bladder fills with urine.
- Bladder cancer: abnormal uncontrolled growth of cells in the lining tissue or muscles of the bladder that can spread to other regions of the body.
- Bladder stones: formed by the concentration and crystallization of minerals in the urine and can block the passage of urine
- Endometriosis: a condition in which tissue that normally lines the uterus grows abnormally on or in the bladder
- Bowel disorders: IBS or irritable bowel syndrome can affect the bladder
- Urethral stricture: an area of narrowing of the urethral passage
- Injury or trauma to the bladder
Signs and Symptoms
Bladder pain may be continuous or intermittent where it comes and goes. It may be more intense when your bladder is full. Some of the common symptoms related to bladder pain include:
- Burning sensation during urination
- Urgency to urinate
- Frequent urination
- Blood in the urine
- Pain during intercourse
- Night sweats
When you present with pain and symptoms suggesting a urological problem, your doctor will review your medical history and perform a physical examination. Certain tests may be performed to identify the source of the pain and make a diagnosis. These may include:
- Urinalysis: A urine sample is collected and examined for the presence of red blood cells, infection, or any other abnormalities.
- Ultrasound: This study uses high-frequency sound waves to produce images of the bladder tissues.
- Intravenous Urogram: This is an x-ray test that produces images of the bladder, ureters, and kidney using a contrast dye.
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Scan: This study uses radio waves and a large magnetic field to produce detailed images of the bladder.
- Computed Tomography (CT) Scan: This scan uses multiple x-rays to produce detailed cross-sectional images of the bladder.
- Cystoscopy: A long, thin tube-like instrument connected to a light source and camera is inserted through the urethra to view the inside of the bladder.
- Biopsy: During a cystoscopy, a small sample of bladder tissue may be obtained using an instrument passed through the cystoscope. The sample is observed under a microscope to detect any abnormalities.
- Retrograde Urethrography: This is a diagnostic procedure that is usually performed in men. It uses an x-ray dye to look for any strictures or trauma to the urethra which has a longer course in men passing through the prostate and penis.
The treatment for bladder pain varies depending on the underlying condition and the severity. Treatment measures may include:
Lifestyle Modifications: Certain lifestyle changes can improve your bladder health and may relieve the pain. These include:
- Drinking plenty of water
- Avoiding acidic foods and reducing your intake of soft drinks
- Avoiding foods that worsen your symptoms
- Avoiding perfumed soaps and deodorants
- Avoiding smoking
- Performing certain stretching exercises
Medications: This includes antibiotics to treat bacterial infection as well as medications to relieve bladder pain.
Nerve Stimulation: This treatment involves passing electrical impulses through the bladder which target the nerves to reduce urinary urgency and relieve pain.
Urethral Dilation: A catheter with a balloon at the end is inserted into the urethra. The balloon is then inflated to help widen any area of stricture and increase the flow of urine.
Bladder Instillation: Also known as bladder wash, this is a technique in which a catheter is used to fill the bladder with a medicated solution. After retaining the solution for a period of about 10 to 15 minutes, it is then released. This helps relax the bladder muscles, increase the capacity of the bladder, and control inflammation.
Radiation Therapy: In this treatment, powerful X-rays or other high-energy rays are focused on the bladder to kill cancer cells.
Chemotherapy: This is a medication that is given orally or intravenously to destroy cancerous growths.
Surgery may be recommended to treat bladder cancer and other conditions causing severe symptoms that are poorly treated by nonsurgical methods. These procedures include:
- Fulguration: This is a minimally invasive method that involves the insertion of instruments through the urethra to destroy abnormal growths using electrical energy.
- Surgery for Stone Removal: This may be performed by an open or laparoscopic technique to remove the presence of stones.
- Bladder Augmentation: Also known as cystoplasty, it is a procedure performed to increase the size and capacity of the bladder which can help to relieve the bladder pain.
- Cystectomy: This procedure involves the removal of all or part of the bladder along with adjacent lymph nodes for the treatment of bladder cancer. Removal of the whole bladder (Radical Cystectomy) will require the surgeon to create a passage for the urine to go from the kidneys to outside the body.
Bladder pain is pain that originates in the bladder due to various reasons. The main causes include urinary tract infections, interstitial cystitis, and bladder cancer. The pain can vary in intensity and can adversely affect your quality of life. There are various treatment measures to relieve bladder pain. Addressing the underlying condition can provide a definite solution.