The urinary bladder is a sac-like organ located in the pelvis behind the pubic bone. As part of the excretory system, its main function is to store urine from the kidneys until it is ready to be passed out. The bladder is made of layers of muscle tissue and can accommodate up to 600 mL of urine.
When the volume of the bladder reaches about 400 mL, a central nervous system response is usually triggered and a sensation of fullness is felt. When signaled, the bladder muscles slowly contract and the internal sphincter valves open. The urine then exits the bladder through the urethra.
Common Bladder Problems/Conditions
Urinary tract infection or cystitis - This condition is characterized by an infection of the bladder. Its symptoms include high fever, frequent urination, discomfort during urination, and blood in the urine. Although common, this condition is easily treated with antibiotic therapy.
Interstitial cystitis - Also known as painful bladder syndrome, this condition is marked by chronic pain in the pelvis that worsens when there is an increasing amount of urine in the bladder. It is much worse than regular cystitis and often caused by bladder damage and chronic bladder infection.
Urinary incontinence – Common in old age, this condition is characterized by loss of bladder control, which may range from occasional to uncontrollable urine leakage. This is known to be caused by the weakening of the muscles responsible for holding urine in the bladder but can also be due to bladder prolapse.
Urinary retention - An abnormal condition where excessive amount of urine builds up in the bladder usually due to nerve damage, prostate enlargement, or diabetes. This results in the backflow of urine into the kidneys, causing damage and eventually, kidney failure.
Bladder stones – This condition is marked by the buildup of hard lumps of minerals (calculi) in the bladder that can irritate the organ and block the flow of urine.
Bladder cancer – This condition develops when there is an abnormal growth of cancer cells in the inner lining of the bladder. People who smoke have an increased risk of developing this condition as well as those exposed to certain chemicals and have chronic bladder infections.
Common Bladder Procedures and Surgeries
Bladder suspension surgery – This is a procedure performed to treat urinary incontinence or urine leakage. Minimally invasive bladder surgery is now available, where a sling is surgically inserted and placed under the urethra to restore the bladder's normal position.
Transurethral cystolitholapaxy – This is a procedure for removing small bladder stones. It involves inserting a small tube into the urethra and using laser or ultrasound waves to break the stones into fragments so they can be flushed from the bladder with fluids.
Transurethral resection of the bladder tumor (TURBT) – This is commonly the first line of treatment for bladder cancer and involves removing the tumor through the urethra. It is commonly done with a biopsy, where a pathologist examines the mass to determine the stage and grade of the tumor.
Radical cystectomy - Also a treatment method for bladder cancer, this surgical procedure removes the entire bladder and in some cases, neighboring organs if they are also affected by the disease. This procedure is now commonly performed through minimally invasive techniques that do not require making large incisions in the skin. A cystectomy is often followed by a urinary diversion that reroutes urine flow from its normal pathway.