About Bladder Health
People rarely talk about bladder health, but everyone is affected by it. Everyone uses their bladder many times each day. But they may not know what to do to keep their bladder healthy.
What is the bladder?
The bladder is a hollow organ, much like a balloon, that stores urine. Pelvic floor muscles help hold urine in the bladder. The bladder is located in the lower abdomen. It is part of the urinary system, which also includes the kidneys, ureters, and urethra.
Why do we make urine?
The urinary system makes and stores urine. The body gets nutrients from what we eat and drink. But the body can’t use all parts of foods and drinks. After your body takes what it needs from foods and drinks, it has to get rid of the leftover wastes. The kidneys help remove these wastes and extra water by filtering them out of the blood to make urine. The urine made in the kidneys travels through the ureters to the bladder. The urine is stored in the bladder until you are ready to urinate. When you urinate, the urine exits the body through the urethra.
Each day, adults pass about a quart and a half of urine through the bladder and out of the body. A quart and a half of urine would fill four 12 ounce cans of soda. But the exact amount of urine made each day is different for every person. The amount of urine you make changes based on the following factors.
- How much fluid you take in. This includes fluids from foods as well as drinks.
- How much fluid you lose by sweating. You may sweat more when the weather is warmer.
- How much fluid you lose by breathing. You may lose more water when you breathe heavily -- such as during physical activity.
- The medicines you take. Some medicines can change the amount of urine you make. Ask your health care professional if your medicines can affect the amount of urine you make.
How Aging Affects the Bladder
As you get older, the bladder changes. The elastic bladder tissue may toughen and become less stretchy. A less stretchy bladder cannot hold as much urine as before and might make you go to the bathroom more often. The bladder wall and pelvic floor muscles may weaken. Weak bladder wall muscles may make it hard to empty the bladder fully. Weak pelvic floor muscles may make it hard to hold urine in the bladder, which may cause urine to leak.
(Watch the videos on this page to learn more about bladder problems in older adults. To enlarge a video, click the brackets in the lower right-hand corner. To reduce a video, press the Escape (Esc) button on your keyboard.)
Bladder Problems and Everyday Life
Bladder problems are very common, and they can really lower a person’s quality of life (the person’s level of health, comfort, and happiness). In fact, people with bladder problems may have a lower quality of life than people with diabetes, heart disease, or high blood pressure. Bladder problems can disrupt day-to-day life. When people have bladder problems, they may avoid social settings, such as faith meetings, community gatherings, and family get-togethers. Bladder problems can also make it hard to get tasks done at home or at work.
Common Bladder Problems
Common bladder problems include the following.
- Lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS) -- a group of symptoms such as trouble urinating, loss of bladder control, leaking of urine, and frequent need to urinate. LUTS are caused by problems with the bladder, urethra, or pelvic floor muscles.
- Bladder infection (cystitis) -- the most common type of urinary tract infection (UTI). A bladder infection means that bacteria (or germs) have entered the bladder and are causing symptoms, such as having strong and sudden urges to urinate or having to urinate frequently.
- Bladder cancer: cancer in the lining of the bladder.
Learn more about bladder cancer from the National Cancer Institute.
Bladder Problems and the Prostate in Men
Bladder problems occur more often in women, but they are also quite common in men. The reasons for the problems can be different in men and women. Men have a prostate gland that surrounds the opening of the bladder. While most tissues get smaller with aging, the prostate gets bigger.
When it gets too big, it can restrict the flow of urine through the urethra. This can make it hard to start urinating, cause the urine stream to be slow, and prevent men from completely emptying the bladder.