Thursday 1st September marks the beginning of Urology Awareness Month – the annual campaign to raise awareness around urological issues and diseases. Since 2014, people within the urology community have been coming together to talk openly about urological diseases and their symptoms – whether that be healthcare professionals, researchers, decision makers in healthcare, carers or those directly suffering with urology conditions.
Much of what we do at Vyne centres around urology and those who face urology conditions. Many of the people who use Vyne suffer from continence problems, stemming from a wide array of causes. These could be diseases and cancers of the kidneys, bladder, prostate and the male reproductive system. Continence issues are often the symptom of a deeper problem and that’s why it’s so important to talk about and address them.
What causes bladder issues?
We’ve talked about the symptoms and causes of bladder issues in depth before.
They can be caused by various reasons ranging from lifestyle factors through to some of the health conditions we've mentioned above.
Infections such as UTIs and cystitis can be temporary and prevented by paying attention to what triggers them. Certain medications can cause changes in your urination and bladder function such as diuretics, or water pills as they are sometimes known. Alcoholic, caffeinated, or carbonated beverages are known to irritate the bladder and can lead to bladder problems. Being overweight can put pressure on the bladder and surrounding muscles, which could lead to an eventual weakening of the bladder.
Ageing is something many of us associate with a weaker bladder too. It varies by person and there's no hard and fast rule that ageing automatically means the bladder weakens, but when the pelvic floor and sphincter muscles weaken, incontinence can develop. This doesn’t happen from one day to the next, however, but is more of a slow, gradual process.
For women, there are also certain life events that can weaken the pelvic floor muscles, leading to stress incontinence. This includes menopause, pregnancy and childbirth and any other trauma or injury to the pelvic region.
Then of course there are multiple health conditions that can cause issues. An obstruction of the bladder or urinary tract, such as a tumour, can cause you to not be able to urinate. This can lead to various health problems, including infections as the urine backs up into the kidneys or overflow incontinence, depending on where exactly the obstruction is.
Problems with the nervous system, whether these are congenital or caused by trauma or injury, are a common cause of bladder problems. With nerve related conditions, the communication between the brain and the urinary tract is disrupted, leading to the urinary tract not being able to do its job properly.
For men, prostate problems can be a common cause of bladder problems. All men have a prostate gland that surrounds the bladder neck a little bit like a donut. As the man gets older, the prostate gets bigger and men might start to experience difficulty starting the flow of urine,, a slow urine stream, spraying, or being unable to empty the bladder fully.
Prostate cancer can also be a cause of short-term and long-term bladder issues. A cancerous growth that can damage or block the urinary tract, radiation therapy, surgery, and other cancer treatments can all lead to nerve damage, bladder spasms or stress incontinence.
When should I seek help?
For many people, speaking about urology and bladder issues can be uncomfortable and embarrassing. This is why Urology Awareness Month is so important – we want to encourage people to feel comfortable seeking help when they need it.
You should always speak to your doctor or healthcare professional if you suspect there may be something wrong. A few isolated incidents of urinary incontinence might not be the end of the world, but anything that persists or causes you to worry, should be something you speak to a healthcare professional about.
Make an appointment to speak to someone if:
- You often feel an urgent need to urinate and worry that you might not make it in time.
- You often need to urinate but are unable to do so – you should always be able to fully empty your bladder.
- If your spot blood or discolouration in your urine.
- You’re experiencing leakage regularly and it’s affecting your quality of life.
For many people, these symptoms can be treated and managed. Talking about it is the first step to improving it.