Bladder Control Q&A
Embry Womens Health
What’s the bladder’s role in UI?
The bladder is a muscular organ shaped like an upside-down teardrop that sits between the pelvic bones. This hollow organ expands as it fills with urine draining from the kidneys. A normal bladder can hold up to 2 cups of fluid. When your bladder signals the brain that it’s full, your neurological system sends a message to the bladder wall muscles to squeeze or contract. At the same time, your brain instructs the internal and external sphincter muscles holding urine in the bladder to relax so that it can empty. Weakened or malfunctioning muscles controlling the bladder and problems with neurological signals from the brain can disrupt the process and cause UI.
What causes the bladder problems?
The experiences and conditions that might cause loss of bladder control include:
- Damage to the bladder and pelvic floor muscles during childbirth
- Menopause and reduction in hormones that keep the tissues lining the bladder healthy
- Neurological problems that disrupt the signals from the brain to the bladder region and other urinary structures
- Sedentary lifestyle that decreases muscle strength
- Excessive weight that puts pressure on the bladder and makes it feel full when it’s not
- Weakened bladder muscles due to the natural aging process
What’s interstitial cystitis?
Interstitial cystitis (CI) is inflammation in the bladder that leads to bladder pressure, burning pain with urination, incontinence, and the need to urinate much more often than the normal 7-8 times per day. Symptoms can occur day and night. The discomfort may disappear for a time and return without warning. Most individuals affected with CI are women. Symptoms occurring during an active bout of CI can mimic infection, endometriosis, and sexually transmitted disease.
What are the treatments?
The first step is to rule out underlying causes for bladder control issues, such as infection or neurological issues. Once they’ve made a diagnosis, the practitioners at Embry Women’s Health will recommend treatment to relieve your symptoms and retrain your bladder. Therapies may include:
- Eliminating foods that may trigger interstitial cystitis: Excessive caffeine, carbonated drinks, and citrus fruit
- Training to change urinary habits and “teach” your bladder to hold urine longer
- Pelvic floor exercises to improve muscle tone and strength, except in the case of IC since these may worsen your pain
- Physical therapy for IC: To relax pelvic floor muscles
- Medications designed to treat various forms of UI: Such as nighttime incontinence, urge incontinence, and stress incontinence