Cystocele, which is also referred to as a dropped or prolapsed bladder, is actually a complication that women might develop after childbirth. This condition develops when the supportive connective tissue which is positioned between the vaginal wall and the bladder becomes weak due to strain during childbirth. As a result of the weakness of the vesicovaginal connective tissue, the bladder drops from its original position and starts sagging into the vagina. Besides the strain felt by the vaginal walls during childbirth, bladder prolapse could also be caused due to other reasons. For instance, a drop in the estrogen levels during menopause is commonly known to weaken the vaginal walls. Those who suffer from chronic constipation are also at an increased risk of developing this condition. The vaginal walls could also get weakened due to repeated straining during bowel movement. Lifting heavy objects can also cause the muscles to weaken or get torn, thereby causing the bladder to drop into the vagina. In this article, we would be looking into the common symptoms of bladder prolapse along with the treatment options for the same.
The bladder is a hollow, muscular sac in the pelvic region that stores urine. We feel an urge to urinate when the amount of urine reaches 25% of the bladder's capacity. The bladder muscles contract so that the two sphincters can open to allow urine to exit from the body. If the bladder falls from its position, one is likely to experience certain symptoms. However, the severity of symptoms would depend on the extent to which the bladder drops. Prolapsed bladder is categorized into Grade 1, 2 and 3 depending on how low the bladder has dropped.
|Grade||Extent of Bladder Intrusion|
|Grade 1||The bladder drops just a little into the vagina|
|Grade 2||The bladder drops to the level of the vaginal opening|
|Grade 3||The bladder drops lower and starts bulging out through the vaginal opening|
While Grade 1 is a mild form of cystocele, Grade 2 is a moderate form. Grade 3 is a severe form of bladder prolapse. While symptoms may not appear in the mild form, when the bladder drops lower and starts bulging out through the vaginal opening, the urethra gets stretched. This is most likely to cause certain distressing symptoms. The most common symptoms include leakage of urine and incomplete emptying of the bladder. Urine could also leak out of the urethra during normal activities such as laughing, coughing or sneezing. Besides urinary incontinence, a prolapsed bladder could also cause pain and discomfort in the lower back and pelvic region. Women may experience frequent and painful urination along with discomfort due to the bulging bladder tissue. A dropped bladder might also make one more susceptible to urinary tract infections. This condition can also be responsible for causing pain during intercourse.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Besides analyzing the patient's medical history and conducting a physical examination, doctors may order certain diagnostic tests and imaging procedures for diagnosing this condition. Voiding cystourethrography is one such test where an X-ray of the bladder is taken during urination. This helps the doctor examine the shape of the bladder. It also helps them ascertain problems associated with the flow of the urine. Once doctors are able to determine the grade of bladder prolapse, they can suggest the treatment options. If the symptoms are not very severe, doctors usually ask the patient to perform Kegel exercises for strengthening the pelvic region. The patient must also refrain from activities that might worsen the condition. Women who often have to strain during bowel movement must follow a fiber rich diet and keep themselves well-hydrated at all times. It would be best to seek medical help for the treatment of constipation. Those who have been diagnosed with a prolapsed bladder must also refrain from lifting heavy weights.
Performing exercises and making other changes to your lifestyle will surely help, but if the symptoms are quite severe, then doctors might recommend the placement of a vaginal pessary. Under this procedure, a device is placed to support the bladder and stop it from falling into the vagina. The insertion of such a device can make one prone to infections which is why the patient must follow the advice given by the doctor. In case of women undergoing menopause, a dip in the levels of estrogen might cause the vaginal walls to weaken. Hormone replacement therapy might be suggested under such circumstances. If the symptoms are very severe, surgery might be recommended. Once anesthesia has been administered, the loose muscles will be shortened and tightened, followed by repositioning of the bladder.
Women who have been experiencing the aforementioned symptoms must consult a doctor soon. Mild symptoms can be managed by performing certain exercises and following the treatment plan chalked out by your doctor. In severe cases, surgery might be required to tackle this problem.
Disclaimer: This HerHaleness article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.