You’re probably well aware that smoking accelerates aging and damages your lungs and heart, but did you know that it also increases your risk for a variety of bladder problems? It’s true, as disconnected as the two may seem, smoking has a direct impact on the health of your bladder, and the only way to prevent the damage that smoking causes, is to quit smoking and avoid second-hand smoke.
Looking for yet another great reason to quit smoking once and for all? Well here’s a fact you may not be aware of — smoking is considered the leading risk factor for developing bladder cancer. In fact, a study published in “The Journal of the American Medical Association,” in 2011, found that smoking causes at least 50% of all bladder cancer cases in both males and females. And bladder cancer is not as uncommon as you may think; it is the 6th most common cancer in the United States. Although both males and females are at risk for bladder cancer, males have a higher risk and approximately 1 in 26 males will develop it during their lifetime.
For the study, researchers analyzed data questionnaires pertaining to the health of 450,000 men and women. The questionnaires were filled-out in 1995, and the researchers followed-up with the participants in 2006. According to the study, current smokers have a 4 times higher risk of developing bladder cancer than people who have never smoked. Although the risk is reduced for those who quit smoking, previous smokers still have twice the risk of bladder cancer, compared to people who have never smoked at all. To put a more positive spin on that fact – if you quit smoking today, you will in effect, reduce your bladder cancer risk by 50 percent.
Bladder cancer isn’t the only bladder related risk you incur from smoking. Smoking may also increase your risk of overactive bladder syndrome, which is a condition characterized by increased urinary urgency and frequency, as well as urine leakage.
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Smoking may also worsen the pain associated with interstitial cystitis, which is a chronic condition characterized by pressure, burning and sometimes extreme discomfort of the bladder area. Finally, smoking may increase the risk of bladder infections because it reduces beneficial bacteria and increases the risk for all types of bacterial infections. Although no studies have been conducted to prove a connection between smoking and bladder infections, many people have reported a reduction in them after they quit smoking.
Cigarettes contain a number of harmful chemicals that are extremely irritating to the walls of your bladder. When you inhale tobacco smoke, the chemicals move through your body and are filtered into your urine. As the urine sits in your bladder waiting to be eliminated, the toxic chemicals in the urine remain in contact with your bladder and cause damage to the cells and lining of the bladder wall. Smoking also causes frequent coughing, which forces the abdominal walls to put pressure on the bladder and can lead to a weakening of the bladder and pelvic floor muscles. Overtime, the bladder can get worn down and it becomes more vulnerable to serious bladder problems such as incontinence and cancer