Bladder Fullness – Causes of Abnormal Full Bladder Sensation

Every person experiences an urge to urinate when the urinary bladder fills up. This urge becomes stronger as the bladder gets filled up to its capacity. This sensation of bladder fullness (also known as bladder or urinary urging) forces a person to find an appropriate spot for urination.

Up to a point, one may be able to hold off urination despite the sensation of bladder fullness or urinary urge. However, this is a natural urge that should not be ignored for long. The sensation keeps intensifying till one can no longer ignore it or suppress urination voluntarily. After urination, the sensation of fullness in the bladder goes away immediately.

Abnormal Bladder Fullness Sensation

In some cases, the sensation of bladder fullness may not be relieved upon urination. In other cases, the sensation of bladder fullness may be present even when there is only a small volume of urine in the bladder. These are abnormal bladder sensations (technically referred to as vesicle or urinary tenesmus) that indicate the presence of an underlying disease. Both males and females can suffer from urinary tenesmus. Some of the causes of urinary tenesmus are the same in both males and females. However, there are also some gender-specific causes of urinary tenesmus.

Read more on bladder pain.

How does the bladder fullness sensation occur?

Urine formed in the kidneys flows down the ureters and into the urinary bladder continuously. The rate at which the urine fills up the urinary bladder depends on a variety of factors, such as total volume of water and electrolytes in the blood, blood filtration rate of the kidney, and levels of certain hormones. The urinary bladder acts as a storage bag for the urine till the time of urination.

The flow of urine into the urinary bladder stretches the muscular walls of the bladder. The stretch receptors present in the walls of the bladder detect the amount of stretch and produce the sensation of bladder fullness in the brain. The maximum storage capacity of an adult human bladder is about 500 mL.

However, the bladder fullness sensation occurs when the bladder gets filled by about 350 mL of urine. As more urine trickles down into the bladder, the sensation of bladder fullness intensifies. Urination relieves the stretch in the walls of the urinary bladder, causing the sensation of bladder fullness to peter out.

The bladder control mechanism ensures the (almost) complete emptying of the bladder upon urination. Under normal conditions, the sensation of bladder fullness disappears as the bladder empties. However, in abnormal circumstances, urination may not empty the bladder sufficiently to cause the sensation of bladder fullness to disappear completely.

Other Signs and Symptoms

An abnormal sensation of bladder fullness that persists even after urination is a symptom of an underlying disease. The following are some of the other symptoms that may accompany the abnormal bladder fullness sensation:

  • Presence of blood in the urine (technically referred to as hematuria)
  • Pain during urination (technically referred to as dysuria)
  • An abnormal offensive odor in the urine
  • Cloudy urine
  • An abnormal discharge from the urethra
  • Retention of urine even after urination
  • Increased frequency of urination
  • Itching in the genital area
  • Urinary incontinence

Causes of Abnormal Full Bladder Sensation

An abnormal sensation of bladder fullness could arise due to a number of different factors. Some of the causes directly affect the urinary bladder and other parts of the urinary system. For example, incomplete emptying of the bladder during urination could result in persistent bladder fullness sensation. Also, irritation of the muscular walls of an empty bladder can also result in an erroneous sensation of bladder fullness.

An abnormality in the sensory nerves that carry information about the state of the bladder may also be responsible for an abnormal bladder fullness sensation in some cases. Other conditions may not be directly related to the urinary bladder or the urinary system.

For example, pressure exerted by organs and abnormal growths present in the vicinity of the bladder could also cause the sensation of bladder fullness. Some causes of abnormal bladder fullness sensation may also be gender-specific.

The following are some of the diseases of the urinary system that may be associated with an abnormal sensation of bladder fullness:

  • Cystitis: Cystitis is the technical term for inflammation of the urinary bladder. It frequently occurs due to bladder infections that are caused by ascending urinary tract infections (commonly abbreviated as UTIs).
  • Urethritis: Urethritis is the technical term for inflammation of the urethra. Sexually transmitted infections and trauma are the most common causes of urethritis.
  • Sexually transmitted diseases: Sexually transmitted diseases (commonly abbreviated as STDs) are infections that spread through sexual contact. Examples include chlamydia and gonorrhea.
  • Stones in urinary bladder: Stones in the urinary bladder may either form within the urinary bladder or flow down from the kidney.
  • Cancer of urinary bladder: Malignant tumors of the urinary bladder may affect the stretch response of the bladder.
  • Narrowing of the urethra: A narrowing of the urethra (technically referred to as urethral stricture) can be caused by injury or infections.
  • Neurogenic bladder: Neurogenic bladder refers to a condition in which the nerves that supply the bladder are damaged, resulting in loss of sensory and motor control.
  • Overactive bladder syndrome: Overactive bladder syndrome is characterized by involuntary contractions of the muscles in the wall of the urinary bladder.

Read more on cystitis.

Non-Bladder Causes

The following are some of the diseases that may cause an abnormal bladder fullness sensation even when the bladder is healthy:

  • Tumors in the rectum
  • Fecal impaction
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Tumors in the spinal cord
  • Spina bifida
  • Surgery of the rectum or the colon
  • Abdominal injuries
  • Presence of foreign objects in the urethra or the bladder

Causes of Men

The following are some of the causes of an abnormal bladder fullness sensation that are exclusive to men:

  • Benign prostatic hypertrophy: Benign prostatic hypertrophy refers to an enlargement of the prostate gland that commonly occurs with aging.
  • Prostatitis: Inflammation of the prostate gland can occur due to certain infections.
  • Prostate cancer: Malignant tumors can occur in the prostate gland.

Read more on prostate cancer.

Causes in Women

The following are some of the causes of an abnormal bladder fullness sensation that are exclusive to women:

  • Endometriosis
  • Pregnancy
  • Tumors in the cervix or uterus
  • Hysterectomy
  • Cystocele
  • Vaginitis

These gynecological conditions are not very commonly associated with an abnormal sensation of bladder fullness but they can be potential causes in some women.

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