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Bladder Problems: Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatments

Bladder problems affect both men and women. They tend to become more common as patients age but can occur at any time. These problems range significantly in severity from mild urinary tract infections (UTIs) to fatal cancers. Read on to learn about several of the most common bladder problems in adults and how they can be treated.

Symptoms of Bladder Problems

The bladder is a hollow organ found in the lower abdomen. It acts as a storage space for urine and works in conjunction with other parts of the urinary system to eliminate waste and expel it from the body. Symptoms of bladder problems tend to be more common in older adults since the bladder tissue tends to toughen and become less elastic and the muscles of the pelvic floor often become weak with age, but some problems can come up at any point in a patient’s life.
Every bladder problem exhibits slightly different symptoms, but there are a few clear signs that patients should seek medical help. They include:

  • urinary incontinence
  • frequent need to urinate (more than eight times per day)
  • waking up at night to urinate
  • increased urgency of urination
  • pain that occurs before, during, or after urination
  • bloody or cloudy urine
  • having a weak stream while urinating
  • trouble emptying the bladder fully

If patients experience one or more of these symptoms, they should request a referral to an expert in urology. Urologists specialize in bladder problems, so they have all the knowledge, experience, and diagnostic tools required to evaluate patients’ symptoms, perform tests, provide an accurate diagnosis, and come up with an effective treatment plan.

Diagnosing Bladder Problems

Since many bladder problems share the same or similar symptoms, urologists must perform diagnostic tests to evaluate bladder function and determine the underlying cause of a patient’s symptoms. Specialists will usually use a combination of diagnostic imaging tests, blood tests, cystoscopies, and urodynamic testing. Urodynamic testing may be recommended if patients are experiencing urinary incontinence, a weak urinary stream, frequent urination, difficulty completely emptying the bladder, or recurrent bladder infections.
The diagnostic tests sometimes require urologists to place a catheter or a specialized sensor in the patient’s urethra, which can be mildly uncomfortable, but the information they offer to specialized physicians and their patients is invaluable. There are several types of urodynamic bladder tests, so patients may want to read up on what to expect before heading in for testing.

Uroflowmetry Testing

Uroflowmetry testing is a urodynamic test that measures the speed and amount of urine being passed through a patient’s urethra. Patients undergoing this test will be asked to urinate into a funnel hooked up to a computerized device designed to measure urine flow. They should abstain from emptying their bladders for at least one hour before the test.

Cystometrogram Studies

Cystometrogram studies measure bladder capacity and bladder control. This form of diagnostic testing involves placing a catheter and using it to fill the bladder with fluid. The patient will be asked to perform various physical tasks such as coughing, bearing down, or standing in place. He or she will also be asked to report any sensations experienced during the cystometrogram study and will be asked to urinate when the rest of the testing is completed.

Pressure-Flow Studies

Urologists use pressure-flow studies to determine whether patients have an obstruction in their urinary tracts. Patients will have their bladders filled using a catheter, then be asked to urinate normally. The urologist will measure and record bladder pressure and urine flow rates to help determine whether a blockage may be to blame for the patient’s symptoms.

Video Urodynamics

Video urodynamics involves performing a combination of urodynamic tests and then using diagnostic imaging to better understand the results. The patient’s bladder will be filled with contrast fluid and the urologist will take X-ray videos while the bladder is filling and emptying.

Electromyography (EMG)

EMG is used to diagnose the cause of urinary incontinence or retention. It measures how well patients are able to control the muscles in their urethral sphincters and helps to determine whether the urethral sphincter is working properly in coordination with the bladder.

Treating Bladder Problems

Once patients have undergone urodynamic testing and reported their symptoms to a urologist, the urologist and his or her team will provide an accurate diagnosis and begin coming up with a treatment plan. Treatments differ substantially depending on the patient’s underlying condition, but most bladder problems can be either treated or managed.

Lifestyle Changes

In some cases, patients may be able to make lifestyle changes that improve their symptoms. This is especially true for patients with overactive bladder (OAB) and interstitial cystitis (IC). Lifestyle changes may include limiting the intake of foods and beverages that irritate the bladder, learning how to use techniques like delayed voiding, double voiding, and timed urination, performing exercises to strengthen the bladder muscles, and keeping a bladder diary.

Prescription Medications

Many bladder conditions can be treated using prescription medications. Some must be taken daily, while others, such as Botox, can be injected locally to help with symptoms like urinary incontinence. Finding the right medications requires a detailed diagnosis and a review of the patient’s medical history and current medication list.

Surgical Interventions

For serious, life-threatening bladder problems like bladder cancer, surgical interventions may be appropriate. Some types of cancer can be treated by removing the tumor, alone, while others require the removal of the entire bladder. In most cases, a combination of chemotherapy, radiation, and immunotherapy will also be required. The key to treating cancer successfully is early diagnosis, so don’t put off heading to a urologist for testing.
No matter what type of bladder problems patients are having, a urologist can help them get an accurate diagnosis, manage their symptoms, and come up with a treatment plan that really works. The first step is to schedule an appointment, so browse the website for more information or get in contact online or by phone to discuss options. It’s the first step toward finding relief.

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