Updated: Dec 2, 2021
Welcome to Week 2 of Bladder Health Month! What’s up for this week? Bladder Infections, Interstitial Cystitis and Neurogenic Bladder.
What are Bladder Infections?
Bladder Infections are the most common type of urinary tract infection (UTI) in women. Each year, UTIs account for more than 4 million doctor visits. Women, men, and even kids can get UTI's, but women are 4x more likely than men to get one.
Women are more likely to get a UTI than men because women have shorter urethras, so bacteria have a shorter distance to travel to reach the bladder.
What Causes Bladder Infections?
Bladder Infections typically occur when bacteria outside the body enter the urinary tract through the urethra and begin to multiply.
Because large numbers of bacteria live in the area around the vagina and rectum, and also on your skin, bacteria may get into the urine from the urethra and travel into the bladder.
Some factors that can add to your chances of getting a bladder infection are:
Menopause: women who have gone through menopause lose the protection that estrogen provides against UTIs, so may get infections more often
Birth control: women who use diaphragms have been found to have a higher risk of UTIs when compared to those who use other forms of birth control. Using condoms with spermicidal foam is also linked to greater risk of UTIs in women.
Pregnancy: Hormonal changes during pregnancy may increase the risk of a bladder infection.
Catheter: indwelling catheters bring an increased risk of UTIs
What are Symptoms of a Bladder Infection?
Urinary tract infections don't always cause signs and symptoms, but when they do they may include:
A strong, persistent urge to urinate
A burning sensation when urinating
Passing frequent, small amounts of urine
Blood in the urine
Passing cloudy or strong-smelling urine
A feeling of pressure in the lower abdomen
If you're experiencing these types of symptoms, a quick trip to your healthcare provider for a urine test is in order, to help rule in or out a bladder infection.
Source: Mayo Clinic
Interstitial Cystitis/Painful Bladder Syndrome
This is the "I feel like I have a bladder infection but I don't" syndrome. First, a few facts:
Interstitial Cystitis (also called IC):
is a condition which is part of a spectrum of diseases known as Painful Bladder Syndrome
feels like a urinary tract infection (UTI) but does not respond to antibiotics.
is a chronic condition causing bladder pressure, bladder pain and sometimes pelvic pain, ranging from mild discomfort to severe pain
effects between 3 to 8 million women and 1 to 4 million men in the U.S.
can affect anyone
Source: Urology Care Foundation
What are symptoms of Interstitial Cystitis?
Interstitial cystitis signs and symptoms include:
A persistent, urgent need to urinate
Frequent urination, often of small amounts, throughout the day and night (up to 60 times a day)
Pain or discomfort while the bladder fills and relief after urinating
Pain in your pelvis or between the vagina and anus in women
Pain between the scrotum and anus (perineum) in men
Chronic pelvic pain
Pain during sex
Source: Mayo Clinic
What is Neurogenic Bladder?
In people with neurogenic bladder, the nerves and muscles don't work together very well. As a result, the bladder may not fill or empty correctly. Read an excellent fact sheet on this condition here: http://bit.ly/1jesfJt
Millions of Americans have neurogenic bladder. This includes people with Multiple Sclerosis (MS), Parkinson's disease and spina bifida. It also could include people who have had a stroke, spinal cord injury , major pelvic surgery, diabetes or other illnesses.
You can learn more about this condition here: http://bit.ly/1Neo6iC
Physical Therapy and Bladder Infections, Interstitial Cystitis and Neurogenic Bladder
Often there are muscular issues related to repeated bladder discomfort, which is where pelvic floor therapy comes in.
According to the Interstitial Cystitis Association: In patients who have IC or other pelvic pain conditions, the pelvic floor muscles may be tight or in spasm, have a combination of tightness and weakness, or have pain-triggering spots or knots called “trigger points.” Pain “referred” from internal organs, such as the bladder, may set off these muscle problems, but the muscle problems themselves can also set off bladder symptoms.
Many of the urinary, bowel, or sexual symptoms IC patients experience can be signs of pelvic floor muscle dysfunction, including:
Urinary urgency, frequency, or hesitancy, stopping and starting, painful urination, or incomplete emptying
Constipation, straining, pain with bowel movements
Unexplained pain in your low back, pelvic region, genital area, or rectum
Pain during or after intercourse or orgasm
If you have been suffering from repeated bladder infections or symptoms that feel like bladder infections, then in addition to seeing your physician, seeing a pelvic floor PT to reset any muscle dysfunction can go a long way toward easing your pain and bladder symptoms. Note: the physical therapy techniques that help relax and lengthen tight muscles and release trigger points are different from the ones that help people with incontinence, who often need to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles.
What to do if you have bladder symptoms
Remember, many specialists are equipped to assist you with any bladder problems you may be experiencing, including your primary care physician, OB-GYN, urogynecologist, urologist, or you can schedule a free consultation with me for guidance. Pelvic physical therapy can be an effective part of treatment for many bladder conditions, including interstitial cystitis and neurogenic bladder.
Take action today to tackle your bladder problems
Happy Bladder Health Month, Week 2!
Want to chat about this article? Leave a comment below or send me an email with your thoughts.
If you enjoyed this post, you might like our Pelvic Floor & More newsletter. Receive each new post delivered right to your inbox, plus our can’t-miss monthly email loaded with pelvic floor tips, news, exercises and promotions. Sign up here.
About the Author:
Angela is the owner of My Pelvic Therapy, PLLC and a licensed physical therapist. Prior to starting her telehealth private practice, she worked as a senior physical therapist for 17 years at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, IL, specializing in helping both women and men overcome their pelvic floor challenges. She received her physical therapy degree from Duke University, biology degree from University of Illinois, and is a lifelong learner of all things PT.