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Inflammation of the bladder is irritation of the tissues in the bladder wall and surrounding structures. Patients with bladder inflammation commonly experience pain and tenderness in the abdomen, and may have difficulty urinating. There are a number of reasons the bladder may become inflamed, and a doctor can perform an evaluation to learn more about the cause and develop a treatment plan. Failure to treat the problem can result in chronic bladder inflammation and an increased risk of bladder cancers and other medical problems.
One reason to develop inflammation in the bladder is an infection. When bacteria, fungi, and other organisms get into the bladder and start breeding, the immune system reacts by producing inflammation. Specialized cells rush to the scene of the infection to attack and remove the infectious organisms. The bladder wall becomes hot and thickened as the inflammation progresses. Often, the urine becomes cloudy and sometimes blood will be present.
Autoimmune disease can also cause inflammation of the bladder. In this case, the body's immune system becomes confused and starts identifying tissues in the body as dangerous. The immune system kicks into gear to destroy the “dangerous” cells. As the inflammation progresses, lesions can appear, caused by damage to the cells.
Bladder inflammation may be associated with injuries to the abdomen. Sometimes, inflammation spreads from neighboring tissues, or can flare up following surgery, biopsies, and other procedures where care providers come into contact with the bladder. This inflammation may be self-resolving, disappearing as the bladder heals. It can become an issue if the bladder becomes inflamed in response to something like catheter placement, where a doctor cannot remove the catheter to allow the bladder to heal because this might interfere with proper bladder drainage.
Chronic inflammation of the bladder, where the bladder remains inflamed over an extended period of time, can pose health risks. It is usually uncomfortable for patients. The inflammation also causes cellular changes in the bladder wall over the long term, as the cells slough away in response to inflammation and new cells must grow rapidly to replace the lost tissue. This can cause growths in the bladder and some of these may be malignant, developing into bladder cancer. If a patient has a history of painful urination, inflammation, and stomach pain, he may not realize that the symptoms have changed and an invasive tumor is eating its way through the bladder wall. People with chronic inflammation of the bladder should regularly see a doctor for evaluation and treatment.