Just about everybody in the world feels bladder pain at some point in their lives, but it can vary greatly in severity. Minor bladder pain may be a result of simply needing to use the restroom while more major discomfort may be caused by actual medical issues. Because so many different things can cause bladder pain, it’s important that you monitor your discomfort and have yourself checked out by a doctor if things get too bad. For some conditions that can cause bladder pain, early detection is the key to keeping things in check.
Of course, you don’t want to go to the doctor for bladder pains only to find out that you’ve simply been holding back bathroom breaks or actually have a stomach ache. If you only have minor bladder pain and nothing indicates that the condition is more serious, give the situation some time and make sure it’s not something small. If your bladder pain gets worse or comes with other symptoms, it may be time to visit a doctor. Here are some basics about bladder pain, including what causes it, how you can manage it, and when you should seek medical attention for it.
Causes of Bladder Pain
If you’re feeling bladder pain, the first thing you should do is figure out what’s causing it. Not only will this help you determine how to treat your bladder pain, but it will also help you decide whether or not you should get medical help. According to WebMD, the three most common causes of bladder pain are urinary tract infections, bladder cancer, and interstitial cystitis.
Interstitial cystitis, also known as IC, is a condition that affects the bladder by inflaming and irritating it. The inflamed bladder has a stiffer wall than normal which makes it harder for your body to fill your bladder with urine. Warning signs of IC include pain that’s more intense when you need to urinate badly. The reliever? Urinating. Although your stomach, back or groin area may feel the painful sensation of having to go to the bathroom, people with interstitial cystitis may find themselves in the bathroom frequently without producing much urine. IC is significantly more common in women than men and is often the result of a problem with the bladder lining. Diagnosing IC means ruling out other similar conditions and taking tests, including a urine sample, cystoscopy, and an ultrasound or CT scan.
Your urinary tract is a sensitive place, so thankfully it does a good job of staying clean most of the time. However, there are times when bacteria make it through the system and cause a urinary tract infection. Similar to IC, urinary tract infections are much more likely to occur in women than men. Symptoms of a UTI include a painful or burning sensation while urinating, needing to urinate urgently, abdomen pain, cloudy, bloody or bad-smelling urine, and a minor fever. A doctor will determine whether or not you have a UTI by taking a sample of your urine and checking it for bacteria.
3. The Big C
The third most common cause of bladder pain, although it’s significantly less common than the other two conditions, is bladder cancer. Like any cancer, bladder cancer begins as a mutation of cells in the bladder, most often in the interior lining of the organ. Bladder pain is one of many symptoms that may alert you to bladder cancer. Others include blood in your urine, pain when urinating, trouble urinating, having to urinate frequently or urgently needing to go, and pain in the lower back. Bladder cancer is diagnosed through a cystoscopy, imaging tests like a CT or MRI, urinalysis, and urine cytology. Often times, a few of these methods are used in combination to diagnose bladder cancer.
Due to the range of possible causes of bladder pain, it’s important to see a doctor as soon as possible to make sure your intense bladder pain isn’t a symptom of something more serious.
Treating Bladder Pain
Treating bladder pain depends on what causes it. If you have bladder pain caused by simply needing to urinate, you can solve that problem by going to the bathroom. However, bladder cancer is another matter entirely. That is why diagnosing the cause of your bladder pain is so important.
Treatment of IC
If your bladder pain is due to interstitial cystitis, you have numerous treatment options. Medicines like Elmiron may help some patients with IC, but it doesn’t work for everybody; also, the medication can take quite a while to work. Bladder instillation, a process where medicine is pumped into your bladder through a catheter, is also a good way to treat IC. Treatments which aim to affect the nerves in your bladder or otherwise reduce pain may also be effective. Bladder distention is one such method in which fluid is pumped into your bladder to stretch its walls and give it a larger capacity. Some patients even have luck with techniques like TENS and acupuncture. If nothing else seems to help, you can always get surgery to treat your IC.
Treatment of a UTI
Getting rid of a UTI is probably the easiest way to relieve bladder pain. Fortunately, your bladder is already responsible for processing a lot of liquid, so it cleans itself naturally pretty well. If your bladder isn’t doing a good enough job of keeping itself clean, you can help flush bacteria out by drinking plenty of water. You can also try other natural remedies. Perhaps the best-known home remedy for treating a UTI is simply drinking cranberry juice. If you do this, make sure you buy a high-quality cranberry juice that isn’t made from artificial flavors. Many of my patients try over-the-counter AZO. Ultimately though, the best way to treat a UTI is simply to take antibiotics to get rid of the bacteria in your urinary tract. I usually prescribe Macrobid. At times, I will prescribe Cipro. For children, I usually go with Amoxicillin or Cephalexin.
Treating Bladder Cancer
Treating bladder cancer is a bit trickier than treating IC or a UTI. The method you use to treat your bladder cancer depends on how far along your cancer is and how aggressively you want to combat your cancer. Common treatment options for bladder cancer include having surgery to remove a portion of the bladder, having surgery to remove the entire bladder, chemotherapy, and radiation. Chemotherapy may be used in conjunction with surgery, either before or after, to either shrink the tumor or get rid of the final cancer cells post-surgery.
For patients who can’t have surgery, chemotherapy and radiation are generally the most effective treatment combination. Since treating cancer is a very serious matter, it’s important that you talk to your doctor about your various treatment options before deciding on a path to take. Your doctor can help you choose a treatment option that will give you the best odds of beating bladder cancer without putting too much stress on your body.
Regardless of the bladder problem you’re trying to treat, talk to your doctor beforehand for advice. It’s important to understand what your different treatment options are and what the pros and cons are of each. If a UTI is too far gone and requires antibiotics, you need to know that before you spend a month and hundreds of dollars on natural remedies while the infection continues to progress.
When to Get Help
Going to the doctor can be a difficult decision because there are a lot of times when your bladder pain may be the result of needing to go to the bathroom. Or perhaps you are experiencing a different pain in the lower back or abdomen. Nobody wants to spend time and money on a visit to the doctor only to find out that you’re overreacting to a minor problem. For that reason, you need to learn to recognize when bladder pain is a simple annoyance and when it could be a sign of a larger underlying problem.
Understanding how serious your bladder pain often means looking for other signs in conjunction with your bladder discomfort. Simple pain may be a result of having to go to the bathroom or having too much to eat for lunch, but you can rule those causes out if you have blood in your urine. If you feel pain while urinating, that’s another big sign that there could be something wrong with your bladder. One of the most common warning signs for many people is the frequent urge to urinate without being able to produce much urine. In fact, if you find yourself having to urinate more urgently than normal, especially if you shouldn’t have to urinate, that symptom can tip you off as well. And of course, intense lower back pain is never a good sign.
While you don’t necessarily need to visit the doctor for any one of these symptoms on its own, a combination of symptoms means there could be something larger at play. Make sure you have yourself checked out by your doctor if you have several of these symptoms or if your pain becomes too severe. Additionally, you may also want to visit the doctor if your symptoms last for more than a day or two. Early detection is the key to easily treating bladder conditions and making sure they don’t progress any further than they already have.
Signs and symptoms that suggest a visit to the ER include: