Bladder spasms are sudden involuntary movements of the bladder muscles that may be painful.
These can be a cause of urinary incontinence or leakages, or they may be a reaction to having a catheter drainage tube inserted through the urethra into the bladder.
What happens during a bladder spasm?
During a bladder spasm the bladder's detrusor muscles contract or squeeze suddenly.
The contractions cause an urgent need to get to a toilet, or result in leakage, known as urge incontinence or overactive bladder.
Who has bladder spasms?
Bladder spasms can happen at any age, from childhood to older age.
The chances of having bladder spasms with urine leakage are higher:
What causes bladder spasms?
Cause of bladder spasms may include:
- Nervous system disorders
- Caesarean section
- Hysterectomy - removal of the uterus (womb), and sometimes the surrounding female organs, including the ovaries and fallopian tubes
- Prostatectomy - prostate gland removal
- Other lower abdominal surgery
- Some medications may cause bladder spasms as a side effect
- Some food and drink, including spicy food or alcohol, may be a trigger for some people.
Diagnosis of bladder spasms
Seek medical advice if you have symptoms that could be bladder spasms. A doctor will diagnose bladder spasms based on the symptoms reported, medical history and a physical examination.
A referral may be made to a specialist for further assessment and tests.
Urine tests may be arranged to check for urinary tract infections.
Make sure you seek medical advice if the bladder spasms happen alongside pain or cramping in the pelvic or lower abdominal area, or if there is pain or burning while urinating.
Treatment of bladder spasms
Doctors will try to work out what's causing the bladder spasms before recommending a treatment.
If another health condition is causing the problem, treating or managing this condition may help reduce bladder spasms.
You may be asked to keep a diary to track when the spasms happen and what you were doing, eating or drinking around that time to see if there is a pattern. A combination of approaches may be needed.
Options may include:
- Diet changes to avoid any trigger foods and drink.
- Timed voiding - going to the toilet at regular intervals rather than when you need to go. This may help avoid some urine leakage caused by a bladder spasm if the bladder is emptier at the time.
- Pelvic floor exercises can help strengthen bladder muscles involved in urination to make leaks less likely if there is a spasm.
- Medication to relax the bladder muscles may be recommended, called anticholinergics, including oxybutynin.
- Precautions may be taken when using catheters to help reduce the chances of triggering bladder spasms.
- Some research has found that acupuncture may help reduce bladder muscle spasms.
- Botox (botulinum toxin-A) injections into the wall of the bladder can help reduce uncontrolled contractions.