The Primary Causes Of A Weak Bladder
The term weak bladder is somewhat of a misnomer, since the bladder itself is not always the source of a problem with urination that is not fully within our control. To better understand what some of the different causes of bladder weakness or incontinence can be, I can be helpful to first understand how our urinary system works.
Before getting into the details about how the bladder functions, or malfunctions, it should be noted that weak bladder problems are more common among the elderly, and are also more common among women than among men. Being a somewhat common disorder does not mean that having a bladder problem is normal. It's not, it's abnormal.
The Urinary System
Our urinary system consists of the kidneys, the ureters, which carry waste liquid (urine) from the kidneys to the bladder, the bladder itself, and the urethra, which helps remove urine from your bladder. The bladder and the urethra make up what is often referred to as the lower urinary tract, where most bladder problems occur.
The Bladder Muscle
Several things come into play when we urinate, voluntarily or otherwise. The bladder itself is a hollow organ, one that is capable of holding roughly half a quart of urine, though the amount will vary slightly from person to person. Usually we begin to feel an urge to urinate when about half of that amount of urine has collected. The wall of the bladder consists of a smooth muscle called the detrusor muscle. Most of the time, this muscle is relaxed. When it contracts, it squeezes the accumulated urine out of the bladder. One cause of a weak bladder would be something that would cause the detrusor muscle to contract when we don't want it to, forcing urine out of the bladder.
The Urethra Muscles
The urethra is a tube-shaped organ which functions to carry the urine that is being expelled from the bladder to the outside of the body. The urethra is surrounded by muscles, called sphincter muscles. These muscles normally are contracted, preventing the flow of urine through the urethra. In a normal situation, when we are not urinating, the detrusor muscle is relaxed and the sphincter muscles are contracted. Another cause of a bladder problem would be something that causes the sphincter muscles to relax when we don't want them to.
The Nervous System
The brain and the nervous system have roles to play as well. When the bladder begins to fill, and its walls begin to stretch, the nervous system sends a signal to the brain indicating the bladder is filling. The brain responds by sending a signal that indicates an urge to urinate. Normally, we make the choice as to when we allow urination to take place, at which time the nervous system will open the flood gates so to speak, by causing the detrusor muscle in the bladder to contract, and the sphincter muscles surrounding the urethra to relax. Yet another cause of a weak bladder would be something that is causing false or erroneous communications between the brain and the nerve cells in the bladder.
Baby humans, like baby puppies, go when the need arises. Eventually they learn to begin to control the urge to urinate, and learn to hold it in until it's the proper time and place for urination to occur. When we do decide to urinate, the nervous system takes over, opening the sphincter muscles and causing the detrusor muscle to contract. When we're done, the detrusor muscle again relaxes and the sphincter muscles tighten up again.
The More Common Causes
The causes of a weak bladder are many. A leading cause is urinary tract infection (UTI). A common symptom of UTI can be an urge to urinate, even when there is no need to do so. Another cause, often associated with a nervous system disorder, is when the detrusor muscle involuntary contracts, creating an unstoppable urge to urinate. This involuntary contraction of the bladder muscle is referred to as having an overactive bladder. If either the bladder or urethra muscles have become weakened, for any of a variety of reasons, control over urination may be impaired or lost. Anything that causes irritation in the bladder, such as an infection or bladder stones, can also affect either the bladder muscle or the nerves that control it, and consequently affect when the brain will signal a need to urinate. Nervous system diseases or disorders sometimes play a role. Multiple sclerosis patients quite often have bladder control problems, as do those who have suffered a stroke.
Most instances of weak bladder, or bladder incontinence, are treatable through medication and therapy. The condition is often curable, and sometimes goes away on its own, especially if an underlying disorder, which may have contributed to the problem, has been effectively dealt with. One does not need to look upon old age as the time when bladder problems are to be anticipated. They need not be, and if problems do occur, attacking them early on can usually lead to a satisfactory outcome.