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What is a Distended Bladder?

By Jodee Redmond
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A person with a distended bladder will not be able to urinate, even if they feel the urge to do so. Some people with this condition can release a small amount of urine, but it isn't enough to provide relief from the feeling of a full bladder. They may also feel some pain in the lower abdomen as a result of the condition.

Some medical conditions can cause distended bladder. In some cases, an enlarged prostate is the cause. The prostate can block off the urethra, which makes urinating difficult, if not impossible.

An infection can also cause a distended bladder. Swelling from the condition may put pressure on the urethra and cause it to compress. If the urine is unable to pass through the urethra, then being able to use the washroom is a problem.

Some medications may be responsible for a distended bladder. If you have started taking a prescription and are having trouble using the bathroom, check with your doctor or pharmacist to see whether the medication may be the cause. You may be able to switch to a different drug that doesn't produce the same kinds of side effects.

Over-the-counter preparations may also cause a distended bladder. Antihistamines and other kinds of medications used to treat the symptoms of colds and allergies may cause this condition. A pharmacist can explain which types are most likely to cause this condition.

It's not uncommon for someone who has recently had surgery to be unable to urinate. This is a side effect from the anesthetic used. Let the nursing staff know if you are having a problem emptying your bladder, and they will be able to deal with the situation. You may be put on a catheter to help empty your bladder.

If you are experiencing the symptoms of distended bladder, you can try running some water while you are trying to use the washroom to try to get your bladder to empty. Sitting in a bathtub of warm water may also help you be able to urinate. If these home remedies don't help, then you need to go to the hospital. Waiting until you are in pain isn't a good idea.

Depending on the results of the examination at the hospital, you may need to see a urologist for follow-up medical care for the distended bladder. Medical staff will attempt to empty the bladder using a catheter. The amount of urine you produce will be monitored and the catheter may be left in place until your bladder returns to its normal size.

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Discussion Comments
By anon162952 — On Mar 25, 2011

my 17 year old son has distended bladder, we think. he has seen a urologist, and several several other doctors. he is in a lot of pain, cannot empty his bladder, has been put on muscle relaxers sent home with a catheter, but still nothing. I wonder about the spinal comment, he's a big football player. Maybe an injury? We are really fed up.

By Planch — On Jul 31, 2010

Is irritable bladder ever associated with a distended bladder?

By EarlyForest — On Jul 31, 2010

A lot of women who think they have a distended bladder may actually have a dropped bladder.

The symptoms are really similar, but many times female bladder sufferers will experience a sense of bulging near the vagina as well.

This condition can be very frustrating, because a person may be unable to empty their bladder at will, but may experience stress incontinence as well, where sneezing, laughing, or crying can cause leakage.

By LittleMan — On Jul 31, 2010

Another possible cause of being unable to pass urine is a neurogenic bladder.

Although the symptoms are similar to that of a distended bladder, a neurogenic bladder fails to empty properly because of nerve damage, often associated with the spinal cord.

Unfortunately, the most effective treatment remains intermittent catheterization, which is used several times a day to empty the bladder.

Patients can also try botulin injections to relax the muscles that control the flow of urine, however.

Not all neurogenic bladders are underactive, however -- in some cases, a neurogenic bladder can actually show up as a weak bladder, or overactive bladder.

Whatever the presentation, a neurogenic bladder is a serious condition, and like a distended bladder, requires prompt medical care.

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