What is an Enlarged Bladder?

Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison

An enlarged bladder, also referred to as bladder hypertrophy, is a medical condition in which the bladder becomes larger than normal, stretches too much, or develops thicker walls. Some people also are born with a bladder that's larger than normal, while in other cases, the condition may develop as the result of an obstruction of some sort. Sometimes, a person may even develop the condition because of an abnormally high volume of urine output or failure to empty the bladder fully on a regular basis.

Bladder stones could potentially cause blockage of the urinary tract, leading to an enlarged bladder.
Bladder stones could potentially cause blockage of the urinary tract, leading to an enlarged bladder.

Since the bladder is larger than normal when it's enlarged, it may stick out past the point it should instead of being held in place by the surrounding body tissues. A bladder that sits outside of it's normal position in this manner may impair the normal function of other organs, such as the kidneys, even though the bladder itself may function normally. Sometimes, this causes the patient's urine flow to become blocked, making it difficult or even impossible for him to empty his bladder fully. Surgery may be required to correct this problem.

A cutaway of a female body showing the bladder in dark pink.
A cutaway of a female body showing the bladder in dark pink.

Often, a bladder becomes enlarged when something blocks the urinary tract. The cause of the obstruction may gradually affect the walls of the bladder, causing them to thicken over a period of time. They may thicken enough to make the whole organ larger than normal. In some cases, the obstruction is caused by a tumor, which could be benign or malignant; sometimes bladder stones cause this issue as well. Surgery is often used to remove the obstruction in such a case, and the bladder often returns to its normal size after the treatment.

The human urinary tract, including the bladder in pink at the bottom.
The human urinary tract, including the bladder in pink at the bottom.

An individual may be diagnosed with an enlarged bladder after the organ becomes stretched due to urine retention or an abnormally large volume of urine output. For example, a person may have trouble emptying his bladder fully and may constantly retain a bit of urine. Other people have medical conditions that cause their bodies to produce more urine than normal. Both of these situations can lead to the stretching of the bladder, and correcting the underlying cause of these conditions may allow the bladder to return to a more normal size. If stretching is severe, however, it may not regain its normal tone.

If an enlarged bladder is caused by an obstruction of the urinary tract, a catheter is needed to drain urine.
If an enlarged bladder is caused by an obstruction of the urinary tract, a catheter is needed to drain urine.
An enlarged bladder may be caused by the presence of an infection.
An enlarged bladder may be caused by the presence of an infection.
Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison

Nicole’s thirst for knowledge inspired her to become a wiseGEEK writer, and she focuses primarily on topics such as homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. When not writing or spending time with her four children, Nicole enjoys reading, camping, and going to the beach.

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Discussion Comments

anon998963

My 6 year old son was having very bad stomach pains about 2 weeks ago. We rushed to hospital and they did multiple tests. They found an enlarged bladder on CT but didn't know the cause. They scheduled an appointment with a urologist and we seen him today. Basically said he thinks its enlarged because he holds his pee and poo... but he doesn't and I told him this multiple times. Didn't run anymore tests to see if it was swelling from an infection or anything... just told us he thinks he is fine, and if he has any more pain to come back asap. Opinions? What it could be from?

anon996020

I can easily urinate 32oz or better if I feel an uncontrolled urge in the middle of the night.

anon991211

I have a slightly large bladder but was told that it was due to fibroids in my uterus. My mother started menopause 5 weeks after her 42nd birthday and spent 11 years and 5 months in menopause. There is a chance that my condition is a result of me starting the beginning stage of perimenopause.

anon327793

I was wondering if a woman with an enlarged bladder could still get pregnant?

anon312151

My 17 year old daughter is having a surgery to remove half of her bladder and correct the valve from her left kidney (reflux). Both (we were told) destroyed her kidney over time. We never knew about this problem; no one ever said anything. She never had any UTI's and kidney infections to indicate a problem. Her bladder holds 980cc of urine, so it is double the size it should be. The valve into her bladder does not close at all and she only has 24.9 percent function in a badly damaged kidney. Her right kidney is functioning at 75.4 percent.

anon194807

I have just been diagnosed with a enlarged bladder. I was being treated for overactice bladder and was on vesicare, which caused me to have retention of urine and had to have residuals until the medication was out of my system.

I now have two options: Isc for the rest of my life or a bladder training programme. I was told that my occupation had something to do with me having an enlarged bladder and not going to the toilet enough. I am a nurse. I am desperate for some answers from others who may be in the same situation.

katherineg

I don't think anyone would intentionally enlarge their bladder. It can lead to some pretty serious consequences, such as kidney malfunction. There is probably a psychological disease out there that has to do with never urinating, but I doubt any athlete or other reasonable person would do so on purpose!

coffeeluv

@denisep - This article says that some people can develop enlarged bladders by failing to empty theirs on a regular basis... that doesn't sound so bad! I wonder if any marathon runners or other athletes who don't want to be interrupted often ever do this intentionally.

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