What is this?
Pneumaturia is a word to describe air bubbles that pass in your urine. Pneumaturia alone isn’t a diagnosis, but it can be a symptom of certain health conditions.
Keep reading to find out more about pneumaturia, what causes it, and how to treat it.
What does it look like?
If you have pneumaturia, you’ll feel gas or a bubbling sensation interrupting your urine stream. Your urine may appear to be full of small air bubbles. This is different than urine that looks foamy, which is usually an indicator of too much protein in your urine.
Since pneumaturia is a symptom of other conditions and not a condition all by itself, you may want to look out for other symptoms that sometimes come along with it, such as:
- burning sensation while urinating
- difficulty urinating
- feeling the need to “go” all the time
- discolored urine
All of these symptoms could indicate an infection in your urinary tract.
One common cause of pneumaturia is infectious bacteria. Pneumaturia can indicate a UTI, as the bacteria create bubbles in your urine stream.
Another common cause is a fistula. This is a passage between organs in your body that doesn’t belong there. A fistula between your bowel and your bladder can bring bubbles into your urine stream. This fistula can be an outcome of diverticulitis.
Less often, deep sea divers will have pneumaturia after a period of time underwater.
Sometimes pneumaturia is a symptom of Crohn’s disease.
There are some very rare cases in which doctors see people with pneumaturia and can’t find an underlying cause. But rather than suggesting pneumaturia is a condition by itself, doctors believe that in these cases, an underlying cause was present but could not be determined at the time of diagnosis.
How it’s diagnosed
To have true pneumaturia, your urine must have gas present in it from when it exits your bladder. Bubbles that enter the urine stream while urinating don’t count as pneumaturia. Your doctor may need to perform a few tests to figure out where the bubbles are entering your urine.
Your urine may be tested to see if there are harmful bacteria in your urinary tract. A CT scan will typically be done to look for a fistula. A colonoscopy may need to be performed to see if you have a fistula. A test that examines the lining of your bladder, called a cystoscopy, may also be performed.
The treatment of pneumaturia will depend on the underlying cause. UTIs are treated through a course of antibiotics meant to kill the bacteria in your urinary tract. Occasionally, bacteria are resistant to the first course of antibiotic treatment and another prescription of antibiotics is needed. Your pneumaturia should resolve when the infection goes away.
If you have a fistula, there are a couple of treatment options. Laparoscopic surgery to repair the fistula is one thing to consider. This surgery will be a cooperative effort between you, a surgeon, and a urologist. Discuss with your team what kind of surgery you’re comfortable with, and when it will need to be performed. Learn more about surgical options for diverticulitis.
Not everyone is a good candidate for surgery. If you have diverticulitis, which can lead to fistulas, treating that condition can have a positive impact on the rest of your symptoms. Conservative, nonsurgical treatment of diverticulitis can involve a temporary liquid or low-fiber diet and resting.
What’s the outlook?
The outlook for pneumaturia depends very much on what’s causing this symptom to occur. If you have a UTI, your symptoms can be resolved with a doctor’s visit and an antibiotic prescription.
If you have a fistula caused by diverticulitis, your treatment may take several steps to resolve.
Even though this symptom might not strike you as serious, it isn’t one to ignore. Pneumaturia is a signal from your body that something is going on in your bladder or bowels. If you have pneumaturia, don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment to find out what’s happening.