Bladder spasms are involuntary contractions of the bladder that generate an urge to urinate, sometimes accompanied by extreme pain. If the spasms persist, incontinence might develop, because the bladder will force out urine. The resulting stream of urine might be impossible to stop because the patient does not have control over his or her bladder. Many conditions can lead to bladder spasms, and they should be addressed by a doctor because it might be possible to manage the spasms or to address the underlying cause and eliminate them altogether.
When bladder spasms occur, the bladder randomly contracts as though the patient is preparing to urinate. The patient usually will feel as though he or she needs to urinate, and some leakage might occur. One of the most common causes of incontinence in the elderly is this condition, and these contractions also can cause incontinence in young children. In some cases, the spasms might be extremely violent, with patients comparing them to severe cramps, like those associated with child birth.
People who have neurological problems can develop bladder spasms as a result of conflicting messages sent to the nerves in the bladder. Stroke victims also are prone to developing involuntary bladder contractions because of the brain damage caused by strokes. Bladder infections and chronic conditions that affect the bladder, such as interstitial cystitis, can lead to spasms as well. Age is one of the most common risk factors for developing spasms of the bladder, with people older than 60 being more prone to them, but people of any age can experience them.
There are several approaches to treating bladder spasms, depending on the root cause. Certain medications can be used to relax the bladder so that it cannot contract at random, and electrical stimulation is sometimes used to address mixed signals from the nerves around the bladder. Some patients have success with acupuncture and other alternative therapies, and others find that doing pelvic floor exercises increases their bladder control. Measures such as catheterization might be used to address incontinence on a temporary basis while a doctor treats the spasms.
Bladder training also is an option. In bladder training, people establish a urination schedule, urinating at set times rather than when they feel the need. The interval between urinating can gradually be extended until the patient finds his or her comfort zone. A urologist can provide additional suggestions and treatment options to patients, depending on the cause of their bladder spasms.