Bladder Health Month

Woman sitting on toliet with bladder issues

The Importance of Bladder Health

The bladder is an important organ that helps maintain our overall health by flushing out and eliminating liquid waste from the body. About the size and shape of a grapefruit, the bladder holds between 300 to 500 mL of fluid.

Women are 4 to 5 times more likely to experience bladder health issues than men. This is primarily because of the evolving physical and hormonal changes women experience during reproductive years, including menstruation, pregnancy and childbirth, as well as peri- and post-menopausal transitions, all of which can greatly impact women’s pelvic floor health.

Bladder health issues can negatively affect your quality of life. Bladder issues can inhibit willingness to participate in activities, including sexual intercourse and exercise; increase social isolation; cause continuous stress and personal embarrassment; interfere with relationships with friends and family; and cause avoidance of being away from the comforts of nearby bathroom facilities.

November is Bladder Health Month and your Capital Women’s Care team wants to share important information about bladder disorders prevalent in women. We discuss women’s common bladder disorders plus symptoms and treatment options; exercises you can implement to strengthen your pelvic floor and improve bladder health; and tips for keeping your bladder healthy throughout all stages of your life.

Statistics: Women and Bladder Health

Some important statistics regarding women and bladder health:

  • 1 in 4 women aged 18 years and older will experience urinary incontinence at some point in their lives
  • Up to 70% of women face urine leakage after experiencing pregnancy
  • urinary incontinence increases with age
  • 1/3 of women aged 60 years find they sometimes leak urine
  • 50% of women aged 65 years and older find they sometimes leak urine

Women’s Pelvic Floor Anatomy

The pelvic floor muscles work like a hammock to support women’s pelvic organs, including the uterus, bladder and rectum. If pelvic floor muscles become weakened or connective tissues become damaged, as during reproductive years when women may experience one or more pregnancies and childbirths, bladder issues may present, which range in severity from occasional urinary incontinence to pelvic organ prolapse.

The location and length of the urethra, the tube from which the bladder eliminates urine, also make women more prone to external bacteria, which increase their susceptibilities to bladder and urinary tract infections throughout their lives.

The urethra has a sphincter muscle which controls urine flow out of the body. When the sphincter muscle is weakened, it doesn’t close properly, leading to unintentional urine leakage or incontinence.

Having strong pelvic floor muscles helps to control urine flow and eliminate unintentional leaks.

Strengthening Your Pelvic Floor

It’s vital to optimize your pelvic floor health. Doing so not only makes you feel strong while taking charge of your health, but it eliminates pelvic pain plus pelvic floor dysfunction/weaknesses, including pelvic organ prolapse, which affects 1 in 3 women, or 33% of those women facing pelvic health issues.

Optimizing your pelvic floor health also reduces the tension exerted within pelvic floor, which reduces risks of overactive bladder (OAB) and urinary incontinence (UI.)

You can strengthen your pelvic floor muscles through adding the following pelvic floor exercises to your personal health plan and exercise program:

  • Kegels
  • squats
  • bridge
  • split tabletop
  • and bird dog.

Pelvic floor muscle training is a proven conservative treatment or preventive for pelvic organ prolapse. Research reports this practice reduced the frequency and severity of symptoms of pelvic organ prolapse.

Causes Affecting Women’s Bladder Health

Women are more prone to bladder health issues than men due to:

  • pregnancy and childbirth
  • diabetes
  • hormonal changes (especially during perimenopause and menopause)
  • obesity
  • nerve damage due to diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis (MS), stroke, or high blood pressure
  • or pelvic organ prolapse (POP).

Bladder Disorders Prevalent in Women

There are several bladder health issues commonly affecting women, including:

urinary incontinence (UI) is the unintentional loss of urine often caused by weak bladder muscles, overactive bladder muscles, or nerve damage. It may also be a side effect of certain medications, foods, or changes in the body due to pregnancy, childbirth or surgery.

overactive bladder (OAB) is a group of symptoms that present frequent urges to urinate, frequent urination, bed wetting, bladder spasms and urinary incontinence.

stress urinary incontinence (SUI) is the unintentional loss of urine caused by physical movement or activity that exerts bladder pressure (coughing, sneezing, laughing or exercising.)

interstitial cystitis (IC) is a condition that causes discomfort or pain in the bladder and a need to urinate frequently and urgently. Symptoms vary and may include a combination of pain, urgency and frequency, often becoming worse during menstrual cycles. Pain during sexual intercourse often occurs.

bladder infections/Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are most often caused by a bacterial infection within the bladder. For people with weakened immune systems, yeast can also cause bladder infections. A bladder infection is a type of urinary tract infection, which occurs anywhere in the urinary tract, including the bladder, kidneys, ureters or urethra.

neurogenic bladder refers to urinary bladder problems due to disease or injury of the central nervous system or peripheral nerves that control urination. There are multiple types of neurogenic bladder depending on the underlying cause and the symptoms.

Symptoms include overactive bladder, urinary urgency, frequency, incontinence or difficulty passing urine.

Neurogenic bladder can present due to spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis, stroke, brain injury, spina bifida, peripheral nerve damage, Parkinson's disease or other neurodegenerative diseases.

weak pelvic floor and associated disorders include urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse (POP), which occurs when connective tissue tears or pelvic muscles weaken. When damage to the pelvic floor occurs, it can no longer support pelvic organs properly. As a result, bowel, bladder, uterus, vagina and rectum functions can be adversely affected.

bladder cancer can affect women at any age. One of the most common signs of bladder cancer is blood in the urine. Because early signs are often ignored, women have a higher chance of being told they have advanced stage of bladder cancer than men. Smoking is the greatest risk factor.

Your doctor will schedule an initial physical exam to determine if you require treatment and perform urine tests to analyze for potential infection. Bladder scans are used to determine if the bladder completely empties and how much if any urine remains after emptying occurs. In some cases, your doctor may recommend cystoscopy or urodynamic testing. Your primary care practitioner may recommend you to a urologist for further specialized care and treatment.

Bladder leakage disorders may be treated through lifestyle changes implemented through behavioral therapy.

Urinary tract infections are often treated with prescription drugs and are often cured within a few weeks.

Neurogenic bladder treatment often includes nerve stimulation to eliminate urine leakage and establish controlled elimination flow.

In the cases of weakened pelvic floor and associated disorders, including pelvic organ prolapse, your urologist may determine surgery is necessary to strengthen the pelvic floor through the reinforcement of the hammock or sling muscles to keep pelvic organs properly placed and secure to prevent uncontrolled urine leakage. Your doctor may also recommend working with a physical therapist to understand how to properly perform pelvic floor exercises to strengthen it and maintain urine control.

Bladder cancer treatments may include surgery, chemotherapy and biological therapy depending upon how advanced the disease.

The best way to avoid bladder health issues is to properly maintain urinary tract health.

Maintaining Bladder Health

There are many things you can do daily to optimize the health of your bladder:

Drink plenty of water daily. Strive to drink between 6 to 8 cups of water throughout your day to flush and eliminate toxins from your body.

Eat a fiber-rich diet. Constipation can initiate bladder control problems. Maintain a healthy diet featuring whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables to induce regularity.

Maintain a healthy body weight. A healthy body weight lessens the likelihood of urinary incontinence plus other bladder health problems.

Cut back on daily alcohol and caffeine consumption. Both heighten urination and increase risk of causing subsequent urine leakage. Artificial sweeteners also increase urge for urination. These ingredients are in coffee, tea and other beverages.

Exercise regularly. Exercise helps to maintain a healthy weight and lessens likelihood of bladder health issues.

Properly eliminate urine. Sit on the toilet (do not hover) to properly eliminate urine. Take time to empty the bladder completely to avoid bladder infection risk. 

Avoid bladder-irritating foods. Citrus, acidic and spicy foods are bladder irritants that can increase risk of incontinence.

Strengthen and maintain your pelvic floor muscles. Daily Kegel exercises and pelvic floor muscle training are key factors which increase bladder health and lessen likelihood of incontinence.

Eliminate smoking to reduce your risk of bladder cancer. About 9 out of 10 people with bladder cancer are age 55 years and older. Each year, about 81,000 are newly diagnosed.

Your Capital Women’s Care team of caring professionals are here to answer your questions and concerns about bladder health or any women’s health issue. Our women’s health experts offer you quality, state-of-the-art treatment and care so you achieve and enjoy a long, fulfilling life.

Sources:

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