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What Is an Atonic Bladder?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Atonic bladders are large bladders that have become dilated but are not emptying properly. The origin of this type of bladder malfunction often has something to do with an obstruction or a disturbance to the natural innervation of the organ. Because the ability to urinate is impaired, an individual suffering with an atonic bladder will experience a great deal of pain.

Sometimes referred to as a flaccid bladder, the condition can develop when some other ongoing health issue impairs the ability of the nerves in the bladder to relay the proper signals to the brain. This failure of the nerves to signal the brain causes urine to build up in the bladder. The result is a dilated bladder that creates significant discomfort.

Numerous conditions can result in urine retention and atonic bladder. Atonic bladder is most commonly seen in neurological disorders but the cause can also be due to minor health problems, such as a urinary tract infection. Some examples of other causes of the condition include but are not limited to prostatic hypertrophy, cancer, urethral hypermobility and neurologic dysfunction. In the event of some type of damage to the spinal cord, the ability of the nerves in the bladder to signal properly may be impaired.

There is also the possibility that an atonic bladder may develop due to some type of obstruction. For men, an enlarged prostate may place pressure on the urinary system, making it almost impossible for the man to urinate. The presence of tumors in the area may also limit the ability of the bladder to function properly.

Regardless of the root cause for the problem, it is important to seek medical assistance when the bladder becomes obstructed. After identifying the reason for the atonic bladder, physicians can employ several different methods to alleviate the pressure and allow the urine to be discharged. Catheterization is one solution. This may involve treatment at a medical facility or learning how to utilize a catheter at home.

When a catheter is not an option, other treatments for a flaccid bladder may be employed. Most of them involve applying pressure on the bladder, effectively forcing the urine to discharge. This many involve manually applying external pressure to the region of the organ, or learning to utilize the abdominal muscles to force the stored urine to expel.

In general, surgery is considered an option only after other treatments have failed to produce results. In some cases, the size of the bladder is enhanced, making it possible to function for longer periods between catheterization sessions. Other methods alter the bladder in a manner that makes it easier to self-catheterize, making it possible for the patient to manage the bladder problem at home.

Scientists continue research into other treatments for an atonic bladder. These includes the development of injections that can help trigger the natural function of the bladder, producing the same result as if the nerves in the bladder had communicated properly with the brain.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum , Writer
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including The Health Board, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.

Discussion Comments

By anon992390 — On Sep 04, 2015

Can atonic bladded be caused by diabetes or LMN lesion?

By anon292805 — On Sep 22, 2012

Can an atonic bladder in a 20 year old female correct itself with regular ISC? My daughter who is only 20 has been diagnosed with atonic bladder. The cause at the moment is under investigation.

By ampujn — On Apr 09, 2012

My father has developed an atonic bladder. He is using a catheter to void but there are frequent bouts of urine infection. Are there any new developments in the treatment of atonic bladder so that he could lead a normal life. He is 80 years old.

By EarlyForest — On Jul 31, 2010

Another possible cause of an atonic bladder are bladder stones.

If they get big enough, they can cause a blockage, leading to an atonic bladder.

By naturesgurl3 — On Jul 31, 2010

@CopperPipe -- No, the two are different things.

Women with a dropped bladder show symptoms more like bladder leakage and sometimes bladder spasms -- more like an irritable bladder than an atonic one.

Although some women with dropped bladders experience an inability to void like that of those with atonic bladders, the conditions are very different.

However, both are serious conditions that require prompt medical treatment, and should not be taken lightly.

By CopperPipe — On Jul 31, 2010

Is a dropped bladder the same as an atonic bladder?

If not, what are the differences?

I know a dropped bladder occurs only in women, but is this just another term for an atonic female bladder?

Malcolm Tatum

Malcolm Tatum


Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
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