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Also known as a dropped bladder or cystocele, a fallen bladder is a condition in which the wall between the vagina and the bladder weakens to the point that the bladder dislodges. This creates a situation where the bladder is essentially drooping into the vagina. Along with making it more difficult to expel urine from the bladder, the condition can be extremely painful.
There are several health risks associated with this condition. Depending on the position of the organ, preventing urination may become less possible. Instead, the urine leaks out without any warning. The urethra may also be stretched, which increases the chances for an involuntary release of urine whenever the patient laughs, coughs, or engages in any activity that pulls on the muscles of the lower abdomen.
The development of this type of prolapse is normally classified using three distinct grades or categories. The least severe grade involves bladders where the drooping is minimal but still leaves the organ partially into the vagina. The next grade is somewhat more serious, as the bladder has sunk far enough into the vagina to be near the opening. In the worst category, the bladder actually protrudes slightly from the vaginal opening and is clearly visible. With all three grades, it is not unusual for the pain to range from mildly uncomfortable to almost unbearable. Often, the condition will also cause pain that seems to emanate from the area of the kidneys as well.
Risk factors for developing this disorder involve childbirth and age. When a great deal of straining takes place during the process of delivery, it is possible for the wall between the bladder and the vagina to fail, allowing the bladder to enter the vagina. Unusual and prolonged straining during bowel movements may cause the same situation. Even regular lifting of heavy objects that are beyond the strength of the individual could place additional strain on the lower abdomen and lead to a fallen bladder.
Menopause can also be a time when the potential for a fallen bladder increases. Since estrogen helps to keep the wall between the vagina and the bladder healthy, the lower production of the hormone can lead to a weakening of the wall. This places the female at greater risk for damaging the wall due to straining during some activity.
Fortunately, the fallen bladder is a highly treatable health condition. Upon diagnosing the ailment and determining the level of severity, the attending physician can initiate the proper treatment. Depending on the amount of drooping that has taken place, the treatment will involve nothing more avoiding any heavy lifting or straining that would exacerbate the condition. This is particularly true when the bladder is only slightly drooping into the vagina and when the patient is experiencing little to no pain.
When the discomfort is more pronounced, the physician may choose to insert a device known as a pessary. Essentially, this device is placed in the vagina and positioned so that it pushes the bladder back through the damaged wall and into its former position. Since pessaries come in various shapes and sizes, it is usually possible to find one that is relatively comfortable for the patient. However, there is a possibility of developing infections or ulcers; for this reason, physicians will monitor the position of the pessary and the general condition of the vagina as long as the device is in place.
In the worst cases of a fallen bladder, surgery is the only alternative. The procedure calls for repairing the wall and reinforcing the area so that the bladder is returned to a normal position. Invasive surgery of this type usually requires the patient to remain hospitalized for several days, with the full recuperative period lasting several weeks.