Bladder & Urethra Problem Terminology

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  • 00:00 The Urinary Tract
  • 00:38 Problems with the Bladder
  • 3:39 Problems with the Urethra
  • 5:47 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Adrianne Baron

Adrianne has a master's degree in cancer biology and has taught high school and college biology.

This lesson covers some of the basic conditions that may affect the bladder and urethra. We will look at how these conditions affect males and females differently as well.

The Urinary Tract

The urinary tract, from beginning to end, consisted of the kidneys, ureters, bladder, urethra, and urinary meatus. All of these structures work hard to form urine by filtering the blood of excess water and electrolytes to maintain the correct water-to-electrolyte balance. This is how things work in a normally-functioning urinary tract.

However, if there is one thing that you have probably learned in life, it's that everything doesn't work right all the time. The urinary tract is no exception to that. Problems may happen anywhere along the urinary tract. In this lesson, we're going to explore a few issues that may arise in the bladder and urethra.

Problems with the Bladder

The anatomy of females and males is very different and as a result, most urinary tract conditions affect one sex more than the other. The majority of bladder conditions affect females.

One condition seen in women is called cystocele, which is when the bladder herniates into the vagina. This is sometimes referred to as a fallen bladder. Cystocele is most commonly seen in menopausal women and women after giving birth. The bladder may also fall due to repeated and regular straining when having a bowel movement or from very heavy lifting. These activities tend to cause a weakening of the wall that separates the bladder and vagina. The symptoms seen with this condition are an inability to completely empty the bladder and urinary incontinence, or leaking of the urine.

Just as the wall between the vagina and bladder can weaken, it can also eventually give away in some parts. This can cause a vesicovaginal fistula, which is an opening that forms between the vagina and bladder. I bet you can already think of one thing that may happen if there is an opening between the vagina and bladder: urine ends up in the vagina. This can cause leaking of urine from the urinary meatus and vagina, and urinary tract infections, or UTIs, as well as other infections, become more frequent. Vesicovaginal fistulas may occur as a result of a complication of an open hysterectomy or difficult childbirth.

Another bladder condition is interstitial cystitis, or painful bladder syndrome, a chronic inflammatory condition of the bladder causing pressure and pain. The symptoms are pelvic pain, frequent urination, small urine output, pain during sex, and pain while the bladder empties and fills. A patient with this condition can also experience discomfort in the perineum, which is the area between the vagina and anus in females and the scrotal sac and anus in males.

Trigonitis is when the cells in the trigone of the bladder change from normal bladder cells into different types of cells. The symptoms may include painful, frequent urination, bloody urine, repeated UTIs, and pelvic pain. The name of this condition suggests that it is inflammation of the trigone, but it got its name because it is caused by irritation or inflammation.

The last condition we are going to cover for the bladder is neurogenic bladder, a condition of urinary incontinence due to neurological disease or injury. Some diseases and injuries that can cause this are brain or spinal cord damage, Parkinson's disease, diabetic neuropathy, or spina bifida. The symptoms of this condition include an inability to control the excretion of urine, development of frequent UTIs, and overactive bladder.

Problems with the Urethra

The urethra is another part of the urinary tract where problems may occur. Almost all problems in the urethra are seen in males and very rarely in females. This is because the male urethra is about 6-7 inches long, and the female urethra is about 1½ inches long. Since the female urethra is so short, there isn't much space for something to go wrong.

The first thing that can happen is bloody flow or discharge from the urethra, which is known as urethrorrhagia or urethrorrhea. This is usually seen as a symptom of an infection, kidney stones, or other irritation in the urethra.

Another condition that can arise is urethrostenosis, which is the narrowing of the urethra. Obviously, this passageway being narrowed can cause problems with urine being excreted from the body. Some of the common symptoms of urethrostenosis include bloody or dark urine, loss of bladder control, urine retention, and pain in the abdominopelvic region. It is also common to see bloody semen.

Another set of issues that can arise with the urethra are problems with the urinary meatus, which is the exit from the urethra to the outside of the body. The urinary meatus should be located at the tip of the penis in males and directly in line with the urethra and over the vagina in females.

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