What is Bladder Dysfunction?

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  • Written By: Erin J. Hill
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 05 October 2019
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"Bladder dysfunction" is a term used to describe a wide range of conditions which negatively impact the function of the bladder. This can include disease of the bladder, obstructions leading to or from the bladder, and other conditions which may cause problems within the urinary tract. Treatments and causes are as varied as the conditions themselves.

Most causes of bladder dysfunction are not life-threatening and are caused by relatively benign conditions. They may cause the patient severe discomfort and embarrassment, however, as in the case of overactive bladder. Many times bladder dysfunction is fully treatable and often curable with proper medical care. Two of the most common types of bladder issues are urinary tract infection and overactive bladder. Both are treatable with medication. Overactive bladder can also be remedied by using kegels and other exercises aimed at strengthening the pelvic floor muscles.

Some causes of bladder dysfunction are more serious in nature and may be potentially life-threatening. These can include cancer of the bladder, urinary tract obstructions, and lesion on the bladder or spinal cord due to a primary illness, such as multiple sclerosis. Potentially fatal bladder disorders are much less common than benign conditions like overactive bladder, but they should be taken seriously.


Common symptoms associated with bladder dysfunction and related conditions are varied. Infections which develop inside the urinary tract may lead to fever, pain when urinating, burning, and the urge to urinate even when nothing comes out. Antibiotics are the most commonly used treatment for urinary tract infections.

Overactive bladder and urinary incontinence are often caused by a bladder which becomes spastic. This means that normal bladder contractions which generally signal someone to urinate become constant and uncontrollable. Patients with this condition often experience a sudden and powerful urge to urinate and sometimes they may experience urinary leakage or accidents. Medications and muscle training are both helpful for many patients.

More serious conditions such as bladder cancer or an obstruction may cause severe pain, bleeding while urinating, and the inability to pass urine. Sometimes there are no symptoms at all. Treatments may include surgery and chemotherapy in the case of cancer of the bladder. Radiation is also needed in some cases of cancer, although the exact types of treatment will depend on how aggressive the cancer is.


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