Overview

The bladder is a sac inside our bodies that holds our urine prior to it being excreted. An enlarged bladder is one that has become larger than usual. Usually the bladder walls become thicker and then grow because they are overstretched. The condition is sometimes referred to by medical professionals as bladder hypertrophy.

An enlarged bladder can be present from birth or it can occur due to an obstruction in the bladder, the kidneys, or the connecting ureters.

What are the symptoms of an enlarged bladder?

An enlarged bladder presents with symptoms that can be similar to other conditions. If you display any of the following symptoms, your doctor will likely order an ultrasound to determine the cause of your symptoms.

  • difficulty urinating
  • a constant feeling that your bladder is full
  • a slow stream of urine
  • abdominal pain
  • urinary incontinence
  • waking in the night to urinate

Other symptoms could be present depending on the cause of the enlarged bladder. These could include pelvic pain and blood in the urine.

What causes an enlarged bladder?

An enlarged bladder is a relatively common condition. There are many possible causes.

One of the most common causes is an obstruction of the urinary system. This can occur in the ureters that connect the kidney to the bladder, or in the urethra which passes urine from the bladder to exit the body. When there is an obstruction, the bladder has to work hard to pass the urine past the obstruction. This can lead to a loss of elasticity in the bladder walls. Typical forms of obstruction are kidney stones and tumors. Prompt recognition of these conditions can prevent the bladder from becoming enlarged.

Some people have trouble urinating. They produce a large volume of urine, but they never fully empty their bladders. This prevents the bladder from returning to its usual size and leaves it stretched out.

Some babies are born with enlarged bladders, although they may not present symptoms until later in life. If an enlarged bladder is discovered in a child, but they are not suffering any negative consequences, then simply monitoring them closely is an appropriate course of action.

People who are both obese and have diabetes may be more likely to develop enlarged bladders.

Some neurological conditions, such as multiple sclerosis and paralysis, can lead to an inability to empty the bladder regularly enough.

Treatment options

Treatment is aimed at removing the underlying cause of the enlarged bladder. This prevents the bladder from further stretching. Prompt diagnosis is important because there is no way to repair the muscles of the bladder once they have been overstretched. Treatment of the cause will prevent further bladder damage and could mean that your symptoms remain mild.

Surgery

If the enlarged bladder is caused by an obstruction, then surgery to remove the blockage is usually an option. The type of blockage as well as the size will determine the method used by your surgeon.

There are different theories in the medical profession as to surgical procedures that may help with an enlarged bladder. Some clinical trials have had good results, but there is no definite confirmation of a surgical treatment for the condition as yet.

Complications

The most common complication of an enlarged bladder is that the bladder retains urine for longer than it should. This can mean the urine flows back to the kidneys via the ureters. This can lead to kidney damage. If you develop severe kidney damage as a result of your enlarged bladder, you may need dialysis or a transplant.

Bladder control can be affected by pregnancy, even with a normal-size bladder. Pregnant woman with enlarged bladders usually find that their bladder control is affected to a greater severity than other women.

Outlook

The symptoms of an enlarged bladder can be frustrating, but the condition on its own is not a grave health concern.

Once an enlarged bladder has been developed, it is unlikely to return to its former state. However, the symptoms can be managed so that they cause less stress to the person affected.

As an enlarged bladder cannot currently be corrected, it’s important that you see your doctor as soon as possible if you develop any trouble with urination. Most causes of an enlarged bladder will present symptoms before the bladder has become enlarged. If the condition that is causing the enlarged bladder is diagnosed promptly, then an enlarged bladder (and more serious complications such as kidney damage) can be prevented.