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Distended Bladder: Causes, Symptoms, and More

Distended Bladder Causes, Symptoms, and More

Are you experiencing distinctive bladder pain? Has this increased your urge for urination?

Symptoms like these can leave you wondering if it’s anything serious. Bladder pain and the repeated need to urinate are, in fact, symptoms of a urinary retention problem1 caused by a distended bladder. This condition can lead to an inability to urinate voluntarily. 

More importantly, without proper diagnosis, this inflammatory condition can become chronic. We created this nifty guide to inform you about what a distended bladder is, its symptoms, causes, and preventive measures.

Introduction to Distended Bladder

A distended bladder is the swelling up of your bladder that leads to the sensation of urination. However, nothing comes out. It happens due to external or internal pressure on your bladder. 

If you suffer from this condition, your bladder will lack the capacity to release the urine voluntarily. Also, as you get older, your bladder muscles may lose their tone, affecting pressure detection.

Simply put, a distended bladder fails to detect the pressure increase due to urine being present. 

Symptoms Associated with Distended Bladder

In some cases, the symptoms associated with a distended bladder can mimic other conditions. So, you might need an ultrasound to determine the cause.

The symptoms that signal a distended bladder are:

  • Sharp pain in bladder, abdomen, and lower back
  • Leakage from your bladder
  • An innate inability to urinate
  • Consistent leakage of a small amount of urine
  • Abnormal sweating with fever
  • Acute anxiety
  • Low urine stream
  • High blood pressure
  • Painful urination
  • Urge incontinence

These can vary, depending on the severity of your distended bladder.

Distended bladder

How Serious is a Distended Bladder? 

This condition will likely not present itself to be a grave health concern in the initial stages. However, if left untreated, an enlarged bladder can lead to health complications.

In this condition, your bladder retains the urine for a longer duration. This leads to exposing your organs to the toxins present for extended amounts of time. Sometimes, the urine can flow back to the kidney, which leads to kidney damage.

Other than chronic kidney diseases, a distended bladder may also subject you to severe bladder damage. Some might even face urinary tract infections as well if left untreated.

However, it is most harmful for pregnant women. An enlarged bladder can affect the placental position, which can lead to complications during birth2.

The severity of a distended bladder will vary from person to person. You can only know the seriousness of it if you undergo a diagnosis. Therefore, an early detection is crucial for timely treatment — keeping you safe from complications.

What Causes a Distended Bladder?

Numerous causes lead to the symptoms of a distended bladder. Depending on these factors, you may need to undergo treatment.

You may be able to treat some mild symptoms using home remedies, whereas serious symptoms can require medication or surgery.

The main cause that can result in making your bladder swollen is an infection. It will lead to a sensation of needing to urinate without releasing it. Moreover, an enlarged prostate can exert pressure on the bladder in men.

In some cases, over-the-counter medications can create issues that irritate the bladder. So, if you just started a prescription, and have been feeling some unpleasant symptoms and urinary habits, it would be best to consult your doctor (especially if you started taking antihistamines).

In men, taking medicine for cold or allergies might lead to a distended bladder.

In addition, underlying medical conditions can also be a culprit. A heart stroke may lead to blood clots and damage to the spinal cord — contributing to a distended bladder.

Additionally, you can develop this condition as a side effect of anesthesia as well. People suffering from obesity or diabetes might also develop this condition.

Even though the causes may vary, it can become a health issue without diagnosis and treatment.

Bladder anatomy

Treatments Available for a Distended Bladder

Treating a distended bladder may involve removing whatever caused it to enlarge. This may prevent it from stretching or swelling further.

If you already feel bladder pain, it would be best to undergo a prompt diagnosis. Prolonged pain can lead to the failure of urine retention.

If it remains untreated, there's a chance the bladder muscles can become damaged beyond repair.

People with Interstitial Cystitis (IC) require a diet full of nutrients to help strengthen the immune system. Moreover, they will need a stringent Interstitial Cystitis Diet that includes a balanced and healthy mix of wholesome foods.

People with IC will be best off eating a good amount of fruits and non-starchy vegetables. Milk and other dairy products may be of use as well.

Drinking an adequate supply of fluids (non-alcoholic) is ideal to prevent bladder irritation and making incontinence worse. Additionally, staying away from too much sodium and sugar can keep you healthier. 

After diagnosis, if you find your distended bladder was caused due to medication, changing it should diminish its effects. 

If you have mild bladder pain, the following home remedies can be beneficial:

  • A warm bath for promoting the proper flow of urine
  • Workout or indulge in yoga to boost the need for hydration and urination
  • Drinking a substantial amount of water

However, if these simple bladder pain relief remedies fail to work, it's best to seek medical assistance.

You may require surgical procedures like bladder drainage, urethral stents, or dilation for treatment. Men can even take prostate medication under their doctor’s guidance to deal with this condition.

On the other hand, a distended bladder caused by an obstruction or blockage will likely need an operation.

Distended bladder

The Relationship Between Overactive Bladder And Bladder Pain Syndrome

Overactive Bladder (OAB) and Interstitial Cystitis (IC) or Bladder Pain Syndrome have similar symptoms. They include – urinary urgency, nocturia, and frequency3. However, incontinence is common in OAB, and pelvic pain prevails in IC.

So, there should be a different diagnosis for people having symptoms of urinary frequency and urgency. Even so, differentiating OAB and IC may present itself to be a challenge during patient evaluation.

Diagnosis Process

The diagnosis process of IC is straightforward. The doctor will either analyze your bladder history or use one of the following methods of diagnosis:

  • Pelvic exam
  • Urine cytology
  • Urine test
  • Potassium sensitivity test
  • Cystoscopy and biopsy

Treatment Process

It is important to note that what treatment works for one person might not be ideal for another. Moreover, no simple treatments can eliminate IC, as you might need to undergo a combination of treatments.

Nonetheless, the following treatment procedures could possibly alleviate your symptoms if done under a doctor's supervision:

  • Physical therapy
  • Oral medications approved by the FDA (Ibuprofen, Tofranil, Elmiron, or Antihistamines)
  • Nerve stimulation procedures like TENS or Sacral Nerve Simulation
  • Surgery

Note: If you have severe bladder pain and distended bladder symptoms, it would be best to get a proper diagnosis from a medical professional.

Products That Can Help Manage Incontinence

Around 25% to 33% of adult Americans experience urinary incontinence4.

If you're dealing with a distended bladder, there is a wide selection of pads, guards, and specialized absorbent underwear that can assist you in tackling incontinence caused by this condition.

These products will not provide you with bladder pain relief, but will give you an opportunity to handle the incontinence caused by this condition and restore a sense of normalcy to your life again.

1. Prevail Ultra-Thin Incontinence Pads (For Women)

Prevail Ultra-Thin Incontinence Pads for Women, 9.5", Light absorbency, Individually-wrapped, Secure fit

    Specially designed for women, this product can help with light incontinence. It has a 9.5-inch length that provides a secure fit.

    The pads have light absorbency (20 fl oz) with an ultra-thin texture. These will feel super comfortable to wear while you are experiencing light urinary incontinence. The pack comes with 30 regular-sized and individually wrapped pads.

    You can take these along with you and still be totally discreet. Moreover, the adhesive is strong and durable to avoid slip-offs.

    The cloth-like cotton material used is soft and healthy for even the most sensitive skin.

    Top Features:

    • Individually wrapped pads are convenient to use with optimal efficiency
    • Helps with preventing light incontinence
    • Enhanced comfort due to the secure fit feature
    • Comes with a strong adhesive that increases performance
    • Cloth-like cotton material ensures the lack of irritation

    2. Prevail Incontinence Guards (For Men)

    Prevail Incontinence Guards for Men, Maximum absorbency, Breathable, Secure fit

      Manufactured to protect against light to mild incontinence control for men, this product has maximum absorbency. It comes with a surface length of 12.5 inches that fits perfectly onto underwear.

      The strong adhesive strip helps in securely fastening the product without making it loose. Moreover, these guards offer long-lasting protection from light leakage due to the quick-wick technology.

      It comes in a pack of fourteen with a one size fits all texture. The design has a cup shape that contours to the male anatomy.

      With the infusion of odor control elements, this guard helps keep a fresh feel throughout usage. Furthermore, these guards have a soft and breathable material that makes them comfortable and regulates temperature.

      Top Features:

      • Soft and breathable fabric for delicate skin wellness
      • Infused with maximum absorption technology
      • Built to prevent odor
      • Instantly wicks away wetness
      • Contoured cup design for optimal comfort

      3. Caroli Unisex Incontinence Pull-Up Underwear

      Caroli Unisex Incontinence Pullup Underwear, Heavy absorbency, Odor-locking

        This pull-up underwear is ideal for individuals dealing with heavy urinary incontinence.

        It is highly absorbent (34 fl oz) as it utilizes a dual-core technology. The texture is firm and smooth, reducing the chances of bunching or riding up.

        Caroli provides pH balancing technology and powerful odor control (up to 60%) that ensures a worry-free lifestyle. It has breach-lock techniques at the seams that ensure 0% leakage. This product provides everyone with innate protection and security.

        Each pack comes with ten hygiene pants, ideal for both men and women. Furthermore, independent third-party dermatologists have tested and approved its safety for delicate skin.

        The product is available in all shapes and sizes – M, L, XL, and 2XL. The discreet packaging and delivery will maintain your privacy.

        It also has a cloth-like material that keeps you from feeling irritated with prolonged wear.

        Top Features:

        • Soft cloth-like material that keeps it irritation-free
        • Tested by dermatologists to be proven safe for delicate skin
        • Infused with an odor-lock technology that works on a pH system
        • Extremely absorbent due to the dual-core technology
        • Firm and smooth texture with reinforced sides for optimal protection


        What foods can heal the bladder?

        • Bananas
        • Pears
        • Lean proteins
        • Green beans

        What does bladder inflammation feel like?

        You will feel sharp bladder pain along with slight to intense discomfort. Moreover, you will experience urinary urgency along with pelvic pressure or pain.

        How long does bladder hydrodistention last?

        For IC patients, the hydrodistention procedure can last up to three to six months. It will help in reducing discomfort and pain caused by bladder inflammation.

        How do you know if what you are feeling is bladder pain?

        Commonly, you will feel a sharp pain in the bladder around the center pelvis or lower abdomen.

        What is a bladder instillation?

        Bladder instillation is a washing process that helps manage a variety of bladder problems. Some doctors refer to this as a bladder bath.  

        Moreover, this treatment involves a catheter with a liquid solution inserted into the bladder. This liquid gets released after a few seconds to clean your bladder and ensure proper functioning.

        Distended bladder treatment

        Summing Up

        The symptoms caused by a distended bladder might be frustrating. However, it is not unusual for people to encounter these issues as they age. If your muscle mass is deteriorating and not being utilized often through exercise, it can lead to these types of health conditions.

        The best bet is always to maintain a proper diet and exercise regime to keep yourself healthy. 

        Many factors can cause this condition – reaction to medication, pressure on the bladder, or an infection. For women, it may be due to pregnancy.

        Whatever the case is, you will need a proper diagnosis and treatment to ensure a healthy lifestyle. Until then, you can use the products to help regulate urine incontinence.


        1. Urinary Retention in Adults: Diagnosis and Initial Management by Brian A. Selius, DO, and Rajesh Subedi, MD, Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine, St. Elizabeth Health Center, Youngstown, Ohio.
        2. The Effect of the distended Urinary Bladder on Placental position and its Importance in amniocentesis by M.A. Sandler, S.M. Sznewajs and L.L. Bity, PMID: 758648, DOI: 10.1148/130.1.195.
        3. Diagnosis of Interstitial Cystitis/ Painful Bladder Syndrome in Patients With Overactive Bladder Symptoms by Scott A MacDiarmid, MD and Peter K Sand, PMID: 17396167, MCID PMC1832106.
        4. What is urinary incontinence? Urology Care Foundation.

        Disclaimer: The information presented here is purely for educational purposes and should not be used in place of the advice of your doctor or physician.