Information About the Bladder and Incontinence
Incontinence is a problem that many Americans are faced with on a daily basis. Incontinence comes in two main types, temporary and persistent, either type can be embarrassing. There are many things that can cause incontinence, and different treatments for the problem depending on the root cause.
All types of incontinence, and causes of incontinence, have one thing in common, the bladder. The bladder is involved in anything concerning incontinence because it is the “storage facility” for urine.
Following is some important information about the bladder that you may not know.
The bladder is a muscular bag that is spherical in shape much like a balloon. It is found on the ends of both ureters, low in the abdomen, and protected by the pubic bone. For most adults the bladder is large enough to hold 12 ounces of fluid, urine.
Both of the ureters pass through your bladder diagonally, and as the bladder fills they are squeezed. This prevents the return of urine from your bladder to your kidneys. The beginnings of the ureters are located near the outlet of the bladder.
These openings and the outlet of your bladder form a triangle, this triangle is the start of the urethra. In men, the rectum is just to the rear of the bladder, and the prostate is just under your bladder around the urethra. Since the bladder, the rectum, and prostate are in such close proximity in men, any problem with the prostate, or rectum will put pressure on your bladder which can cause incontinence.
In females the vagina and uterus set in between the bladder and the rectum. The location of the uterus, vagina, and bladder are why pregnancy, childbirth, and hysterectomies can all cause incontinence.
1. Human urinary system: 2. Kidney, 3. Renal pelvis, 4. Ureter, 5. Urinnopeary bladder, 6. Urethra. (Left side with frontal section), 7. Adrenal gland
Vessels: 8. Renal artery and vein, 9. Inferior vena cava, 10. Abdominal aorta, 11. Common iliac artery and vein With transparency: 12. Liver, 13. Large intestine, 14. Pelvis
Learning about the bladder and its functions can give you a better understanding of how it works. The bladder is a simple organ.
When your kidneys produce urine it is transported to your bladder by the ureters where it is stored. Another important feature about the bladder is the evacuation of the stored urine.
To void urine as fast as possible the wall of your bladder is lined with muscles that contract to open the neck and expel the urine into the urethra. At that same moment the sphincter muscles around the urethra relax, allowing the urine to flow out of the urethral opening.
Luckily this does not take any thought on our part, the entire procedure is controlled by nerve cells in the brain, spine, and around the bladder. The initial signal that your bladder is full is sent to the brain when the bladder walls stretch.
Diseases that Affect Bladder Function
As we mentioned earlier there are many things that can cause incontinence, any disease that affects your bladder can cause incontinence. If your bladder muscles are weakened due to disease it can cause your bladder to lose the ability to empty itself completely.
This can lead to frequent urinary urges and incontinence. Weak bladder muscles can also cause your bladder to become overactive, again this will cause frequent urination and possibly incontinence.
Bladder cancer can effect the bladder and cause incontinence. Bladder cancer is when a tumor forms on the inside wall of your bladder. In many cases these tumors will form a stem and look like a mushroom. Cancer in your bladder often causes the delicate tissues to bleed and will cause you to have blood in your urine.
Many people will not have this symptom checked and it will go away after a few days. You may not see blood again for a few weeks or even months, but during this time the tumor is still growing. By the time the person again notices blood in their urine, a tumor that could have been easily removed is now going to cause more problems.
The bladder is prone to many different types of infections, all of which can cause incontinence. The reason that your bladder is so susceptible to infections is that bacteria can move into your bladder easily, especially in women because their urethra is very short.
Under normal conditions bacteria is flushed out while urinating but certain circumstances can cause this not to happen. If you do not drink enough fluids your urine flow may not be strong enough to wash out the bacteria. Aggressive forms of bacteria may not get washed out, and after sex bacteria may be harder to wash out.
Bladder stones are another problem that can cause incontinence. Bladder stones generally start as kidney stones but are passed down the ureter to your bladder. In most cases these stones are small and will wash out of your bladder quickly.
If the prostate becomes swollen it could partially block the exit holding the stones inside the bladder. The stone will then grow in size, and will often hold bacteria. This will lead to persistent incontinence and infections of the bladder which can only be cured by having the stone removed.
If you have incontinence, or any of the symptoms mentioned above you should seek immediate medical advice. As you can see incontinence can be a sign or symptom of a more serious condition. To learn more about the bladder please see our section on bladder health.