There are several organs that lie in the lower parts of the trunk, within the pelvic cavity. The urinary bladder is just one of these organs. Urine formed by the kidneys passes to the urinary bladder via two tubes called the ureters which run along the flaks. The urine is stored in the bladder before being expelled through urination. About 300 to 500mL (about 10 to 17 ounces) of urine can be stored in the bladder at any time.
Location of Bladder Pain
Bladder pain is often described as a deep-seated pain in the lower abdominal region. The location of the pain is mostly between the umbilicus and the pubic patch in the midline. Pain that emanates from the bladder is usually felt in the lower parts of the trunk. The exact location of the urinary bladder is different in adults and children. In adults, the urinary bladder occupies the lesser pelvis. In children, the urinary bladder lies in the lower part of the abdominal cavity.
The pain arising from the bladder may also radiate to other adjacent tissues and organs. In males, the bladder lies in front of the rectum, above the prostate gland, and behind the pubic symphysis. In women, bladder pain may be referred to the lower sacral vertebrae, resulting in lower back pain. No other symptoms may be present in the lower abdominal or pelvic region.
Infections from the bladder may also ascend up the urinary tract, leading to infection of the kidneys. When this happens, pain is felt in the upper abdominal region (below the lower ribs). Due to its elasticity, the urinary bladder can expand to accommodate a large volume of urine. This can also shift the location of the pain to some degree. After urination, the bladder returns to its original size.
Signs and Symptoms
The following are the most common signs and symptoms of bladder pain:
- A burning sensation or pain may be present in the external genitalia along with the bladder pain. The pain may increase during urination, intercourse, or ejaculation (in males).
- Urine may have a strong smell and be cloudy in color.
- Blood may appear in the urine, making it orange, dark yellow, brown or red.
- Persistent urge to urinate, leading to frequent urination.
- Discharge from the urethra. In women, there may be a discharge from the vagina.
- Urinary incontinence may also occur where there is an inabilit to withhold urine.
- Pain may be felt in the pubic region while passing stool.
- In men, the inflammation of the prostate gland (prostatitis) may also lead to urination problems such as hesitancy and straining while urinating, and post-micturition dribble.
- Chills, fever, nausea and malaise may occur in case of severe infections.
- Unintentional weight loss along with bladder pain may indicate the presence of bladder cancer.
The nature of the bladder pain is not the same in every person. The character of the bladder pain may range from a dull and nagging ache to a burning, throbbing, piercing and sharp pain. Moreover, the intensity of the bladder pain may not remain constant all of the time. The pain may increase in intensity in conditions such as a full bladder, bending forward, and during urination.
Causes of Bladder Pain
Pain is not always a symptom of every bladder condition. Most of the time it is associated with injury, infection and other causes of bladder inflammation. However, pain in the region may not always be due to a bladder. Therefore it is important to consider these other causes that may be mistaken as bladder pain.
Urinary tract infections
Urinary tract infections (commonly abbreviated as UTI) are the most common causes of bladder inflammation (technically referred to as cystitis) and bladder pain. Urinary tract infections may affect any part of the urinary tract, including the urethra, urinary bladder and the kidneys. Infections and inflammation of the urethra (urethritis) and the urinary bladder (cystitis) are the most common.
However, infections of the kidneys are more serious in nature, and require immediate medical attention. Urinary tract infections are more common in women than in men. This has been attributed to the comparatively shorter length of the female urethra and a lack of protective prostatic fluids in women. Bacteria from the rectum are one of the common causes of UTIs.
Read more on UTIs.
Cystitis refers to an inflammation of the urinary bladder. Both infectious and non-infectious factors can cause cystitis. Non-infectious causes of cystitis include chemical injury (due to hypersensitivity to soaps, spermicidal creams, and drugs), mechanical trauma (during sexual intercourse), radiation injury (caused during treatment of pelvic tumors) and autoimmune disorders. In some cases, the exact cause and pathophysiology of chronic bladder inflammation may not be known.
Cystocele (also known as anterior prolapse) refers to a condition in which the urinary bladder bulges into the vaginal cavity. A prolapsed bladder is caused by a weakening and stretching of the tissue that lies between the bladder and the vaginal wall. Bladder prolapse could also occur due to intense straining of the pelvic muscles during childbirth, intense coughing (chronic bronchitis), heavy lifting, and chronic constipation.
Stones in the urinary bladder form due to crystallization of minerals present in the urine. Stone formation in urinary bladder usually occurs when the bladder is not emptied completely. Other causes of bladder stones include bladder infections, bladder inflammation, presence of foreign material (such as catheters and stents) in the bladder, enlargement of prostate gland, and damage to the nerves that supply the urinary bladder.
Bladder cancer is more likely in older adults. It is one of the most common and deadly cancers to affect humans. When diagnosed in the early stages, bladder cancer is treatable. As with any cancer, the prognosis becomes negative with delays in diagnosis and treatment. However, the cancer could recur, and requires regular follow-ups. Blood in urine is a common symptom of bladder cancer (technically referred to as bladder carcinoma).
Other Non-Bladder Causes
These are some of the causes of pain in the lower abdomen or pelvis that may seem like bladder pain. The presence of other signs and symptoms may help to indicate the underlying cause.
- Prostatitis and prostate cancer (men)
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (women)
- Endometriosis, cervical and uterine cancer (women)
- Colorectal cancer
- Fecal impaction