Atonic bladders are large bladders that have become dilated but are not emptying properly. The origin of this type of bladder malfunction often has something to do with an obstruction or a disturbance to the natural innervation of the organ. Because the ability to urinate is impaired, an individual suffering with an atonic bladder will experience a great deal of pain.
Sometimes referred to as a flaccid bladder, the condition can develop when some other ongoing health issue impairs the ability of the nerves in the bladder to relay the proper signals to the brain. This failure of the nerves to signal the brain causes urine to build up in the bladder. The result is a dilated bladder that creates significant discomfort.
Numerous conditions can result in urine retention and atonic bladder. Atonic bladder is most commonly seen in neurological disorders but the cause can also be due to minor health problems, such as a urinary tract infection. Some examples of other causes of the condition include but are not limited to prostatic hypertrophy, cancer, urethral hypermobility and neurologic dysfunction. In the event of some type of damage to the spinal cord, the ability of the nerves in the bladder to signal properly may be impaired.
There is also the possibility that an atonic bladder may develop due to some type of obstruction. For men, an enlarged prostate may place pressure on the urinary system, making it almost impossible for the man to urinate. The presence of tumors in the area may also limit the ability of the bladder to function properly.
Regardless of the root cause for the problem, it is important to seek medical assistance when the bladder becomes obstructed. After identifying the reason for the atonic bladder, physicians can employ several different methods to alleviate the pressure and allow the urine to be discharged. Catheterization is one solution. This may involve treatment at a medical facility or learning how to utilize a catheter at home.
When a catheter is not an option, other treatments for a flaccid bladder may be employed. Most of them involve applying pressure on the bladder, effectively forcing the urine to discharge. This many involve manually applying external pressure to the region of the organ, or learning to utilize the abdominal muscles to force the stored urine to expel.
In general, surgery is considered an option only after other treatments have failed to produce results. In some cases, the size of the bladder is enhanced, making it possible to function for longer periods between catheterization sessions. Other methods alter the bladder in a manner that makes it easier to self-catheterize, making it possible for the patient to manage the bladder problem at home.
Scientists continue research into other treatments for an atonic bladder. These includes the development of injections that can help trigger the natural function of the bladder, producing the same result as if the nerves in the bladder had communicated properly with the brain.