Prolapsed bladder can affect women when the bladder bulges into the vagina.
This is a relatively common condition, also called cystocele or fallen bladder.
The front wall of the vagina supports a woman's bladder. This can be weakened with age, or after childbirth or menopause.
If the bladder has dropped, it can increase pressure inside and may make urinary incontinence more likely - including stress incontinence where leakages of urine can be set off by a simple cough.
Prolapsed bladder can range from minor with part of the bladder bulging into the vagina, to more severe cases where the whole bladder is involved.
Causes of a prolapsed bladder
A woman's prolapsed bladder may be due to:
- Childbirth taking its toll on vaginal tissues and the surrounding muscles that support the bladder.
- Menopause, when having less oestrogen hormone affects the strength of muscles around the bladder and vagina
- Operations and procedures, including hysterectomy.
- Straining, lifting heavy things or straining on the toilet. Long-term constipation or long-term coughing can damage pelvic muscles.
- Weakened pelvic floor muscles from joint hypermobility syndrome, Marfan syndrome or Ehlers-Danlos syndrome.
Symptoms of a prolapsed bladder
- A feeling like there is a ball of tissue in the vagina, tissue sticking out of the vagina
- Trouble urinating
- Feeling that the bladder is not completely empty after using the toilet
- Stress incontinence and urine leakage
- Bladder infections
- Painful sex
- Lower back pain.
When to seek medical advice
Seek medical advice if you have symptoms that may indicate a prolapsed bladder.
A doctor will make a diagnosis based on the symptoms, the woman's medical history and a physical examination that includes a pelvic examination.
Urine tests may be arranged to check for infections.
A referral may be made to a specialist for further assessment and treatment.
Scans or X-rays may be arranged to confirm the diagnosis or rule out other causes of the symptoms.
Urodynamics tests may be done to check pressure in the bladder.
A cystoscopy examination of the inside of the bladder with a special instrument may also be performed.
Prolapsed bladder treatment
Many minor cases of prolapsed bladder will not need treatment, but if the prolapse is affecting daily life, treatment options may include:
- Pelvic floor exercises to strengthen the muscles and help prevent urine leaks
- Losing weight if overweight to help reduce pressure on the bladder
- Vaginal pessary to better support the prolapsed bladder
- Operations may be recommended in some cases to secure the bladder back in place.
Prolapsed bladder prevention
A prolapsed bladder cannot always be prevented, but having a healthy lifestyle, and doing pelvic floor exercises to keep the bladder muscles in shape, may help in some cases.
Avoiding heavy lifting and eating enough fibre to prevent constipation may also help.