Bladder problems affect millions of Americans, and while some of these problems aren't a serious threat to overall health, they are all distressing and can negatively affect one's quality of life. Some common bladder problems include urinary incontinence, bladder cancer, and urinary tract infection. The causes of these problems vary, but many of the effects are similar, namely some type of discomfort or lack of control during urination.
Urinary incontinence may be the most common of all bladder problems. More women are affected than men, due to the fact that many factors related to pregnancy and childbirth can be to blame for incontinence. Childbirth, especially, can weaken and stretch the pelvic floor muscles that are responsible for bladder control. Genetic predisposition also plays a role for some, as well as being overweight. Nerve and muscle damage, as well as nervous system problems, can also lead to incontinence.
For men, the most common causes of incontinence include a partially blocked urethra, or possibly a tumor that affects the bladder control muscles. These tumors can be benign, or they can be the result of bladder cancer. Apart from the presence of a tumor, blood in the urine is the main indicator that cancer may be present. Bladder cancer is usually easily treated if it is found early, which it almost always is. Smoking is the most common risk factor, making the reduced risk for bladder cancer one of the hundreds of health benefits gained from avoiding or quitting smoking.
Another bladder problem which is more common for women is a urinary tract infection (UTI). The urinary tract includes the kidneys, the bladder and urethra, and everything in between. Most UTIs, though, are simply bladder infections. They are more prevalent in women because women have a shorter urethra, making it easier for germs to enter the bladder from the outside.
The risk for a UTI is increased if you do not drink enough fluids, because regular urination helps flush out accumulated germs from the urinary tract. Kidney stones, diabetes, and pregnancy are also known to increase the risk of a UTI. Sexual contact with a new partner can also lead to a UTI, mostly because of the introduction of unfamiliar germs near the urinary tract. Some women are prone to frequent UTIs, although the medical reason for this is not known. If a UTI or any related bladder problems go untreated, they can lead to kidney infection, which poses a serious health risk.