You probably don’t think a lot about your bladder, outside of when it prompts you to run to the restroom. As long as it is working normally most of us assume everything is okay. Once you start having problems, you might need more information. November is Bladder Health Month, a time for increasing awareness of common bladder conditions and how to prevent them. Knowing the signs and symptoms of bladder health issues before they happen can improve or save your life.
What The Bladder Does
The bladder is a balloon-shaped organ that sits between the pelvic bones. As urine is filtered out of the kidneys, it enters the bladder where it is stored. The bladder expands as urine enters. Once it reaches capacity, it triggers nerves to send a signal to your brain that you need to urinate. During the filling process, muscles in the wall of the bladder remain relaxed. Once it is full and you are ready to urinate, the muscles squeeze the urine out of the bladder. As the urine drains from the bladder, it shrinks back to its original size.
You know what it feels like when your bladder gets full and when you empty it. When changes occur, you probably recognize that something isn’t right. It’s never a good idea to ignore symptoms or signs that your bladder isn’t as healthy as it once was.
Overactive bladder (OAB) refers to the symptoms caused by a number of different conditions. In general, it means your bladder is less effective at storing and/or emptying urine than normal. OAB is a common condition that affects thousands of adults. It results from the muscles in the bladder contracting involuntarily, even though the bladder isn’t full. You may have a sudden urge to urinate and also experience the loss of urine, or incontinence. Urinating six to eight times in a 24-hour period is considered normal. Anything more than that is considered OAB. This is especially true if you wake up during the night to urinate.
There are numerous causes of overactive bladder including:
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Bladder Tumors
- Excessive Consumption of Beverages
- Conditions Resulting in a Loss of Cognitive Function Including Aging and Dementia
Some medications that require you to drink larger volumes of fluids can also result in overactive bladder. Urinary tract infections might produce similar symptoms to those of OAB. Although aging is a risk factor for overactive bladder, it isn’t a normal part of the aging process. If you have OAB symptoms at any age, make an appointment with a urologist to find out the cause of your symptoms.
Sometimes incontinence occurs with overactive bladder, but there are other types of incontinence also. If you have stress incontinence, you use urine when you perform various types of physical activity. This type of urine loss also occurs with laughing, sneezing, or coughing. If you have overflow incontinence, you constantly dribble urine without ever completely emptying the bladder. With urge incontinence, you feel a sudden, strong need to urinate followed by leaking or urinating involuntarily.
Men and women both experience incontinence, but for different reasons. The diagnosis and treatment for your condition depend on the type of incontinence you have. Treatments vary from medications to surgery.
Bladder Health Month is an event used to increase awareness of bladder conditions, including bladder cancer. You can’t always prevent cancer from occurring, but you can reduce your risk by making some changes. Smoking is the most significant risk factor for bladder cancer, causing about 50% of all cases in both men and women. The most important thing you can do to prevent bladder cancer is to stop smoking. Other risk factors include exposure to certain chemicals in the workplace, using certain medications or herbal supplements, drinking water that contains arsenic, or not drinking enough fluids every day.
There are some risk factors that you can’t change, such as age and race. Bladder cancer occurs more often in men who are white and over the age of 55. Genetics and deformities of the bladder can also play a role in your risk. If you fit into any of these categories, you need to be even more vigilant about controlling your bladder health.
Symptoms Of Bladder Cancer
Like most other types of cancer, catching bladder cancer early increases your chance of successful treatment. If you know what symptoms to look for, this is reasonably easy to do. Bladder cancer often causes blood in the urine and other urinary symptoms. Blood isn’t always visible, and blood that is visible doesn’t always mean you have bladder cancer. But it is important to always have it checked out by a doctor. Take advantage of Bladder Health Month and find out what kind of treatments are available for your symptoms. You don’t have to suffer from the embarrassment and discomfort that bladder symptoms often cause. Request an appointment with Mississippi Urology Clinic to talk about your concerns regarding bladder health.