Causes of irritable bladder: Symptoms, treatment, and home remedies

irritable bladderIrritable bladder is a term used to describe people suffering from involuntary bladder contractions, which lead to a sudden and urgent need to urinate. Irritable bladder syndrome is often referred to as urge incontinence.

When people ask, what is irritable bladder syndrome, doctors usually explain that there are common stimuli that can aggravate the bladder and override any attempts that the person makes to prevent urinating. Yes, this does mean that accidents happen. Voiding involuntarily can happen during the day or at night while sleeping.


When someone is diagnosed with an irritable bladder, the doctor quickly goes about trying to determine what the underlying cause is. Understanding the cause can lead to proper treatment.

What causes irritable bladder?

Irritable bladder can happen to anyone, but research shows that it is prominent in women. What can cause bladder irritation for one person who has the condition may not be what causes irritation for another person who is dealing with it. There are many different potential irritable bladder causes, as outlined below.


This means inflammation of the bladder, which can be linked to a bacterial infection (UTI). It usually starts in the urethra and spreads up to the bladder. Pain, changes in voiding, and blood in urine are common signs. Cystitis can also occur due to a drug reaction, such as radiation.

Interstitial cystitis

A chronic condition that leads to bladder pressure and pain. With interstitial cystitis, signals from the brain that tell your body it is time to urinate get mixed up, so you feel you have to urinate all the time and usually in small volumes.

Bladder cancer

More common in men, bladder cancer can start in the bladder cells and spread elsewhere in the body. In the beginning, people with bladder cancer may not notice any symptoms, but an early sign is blood in the urine.

Bladder stones

These are hard masses in the bladder that can develop when mineral in urine crystallizes. It happens when people can’t completely empty their bladder. Sometimes, bladder stones don’t create any symptoms and sometimes they do. If left untreated, the stones can cause infections or other health complications.

Neurogenic bladder

This is when nervous system conditions impact the bladder. The bladder can become either overactive or underactive, but both types of neurogenic bladder are associated with bladder control problems. Spinal injuries, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, tumors of the nervous system, and strokes are some of the causes.

Bladder spasm

Something that can happen when the bladder muscles contract or tighten. When contractions continue, it can lead to an urge to urinate. It is often associated with overactive bladder (OAB), a condition that is characterized by the urge to empty the bladder, as well as involuntary leakage of urine. Some consider bladder spasm more of a symptom than a cause. Bladder spasm can be caused by urinary tract infections and interstitial cystitis.

The causes of bladder irritation can be complicated for some individuals, especially for those who have multiple health issues.

Symptoms and diagnosis of irritable bladder

There are a number of irritable bladder symptoms; however, the primary signs are centered on urine output. Living with bladder irritation symptoms is not only uncomfortable but can be socially awkward for people who find themselves having to rush to the washroom multiple times a day.

Here’s a list of some of the common bladder irritation symptoms:

Diagnosing an irritable bladder begins with a full patient history and a physical examination. Some doctors suggest that the patient keep a diary to record the time, amount, as well as the circumstances around voiding of the bladder. Catheterization of the bladder to measure urine remaining in the bladder, as well as testing bladder pressure following voiding is also possible.

An examination of a urine sample is common practice, as it can quickly determine whether or not an infection is an underlying issue.

There is something called a Q-tip test that evaluates the change in the angle of the urethra at rest and when straining that can assist doctors in diagnosing bladder problems. A cystoscopy, which is a lighted scope, can view the bladder, and a voiding cystogram is an x-ray that is taken while the patient is urinating.

Treatment of irritable bladder

There is no blanket treatment for irritable bladder syndrome. It largely depends on the underlying cause. The following are standards treatments applied today.

  • Antibiotics: Usually prescribed for irritable bladder due to infection
  • Bladder training: A technique that teaches the bladder to gain control and improve voiding times. It begins with the patient literally scheduling a bathroom visit even if he or she does not feel like there is a need to go at that specific time. The interval between bathroom visits is gradually increased (usually by a half hour at a time) towards a goal of about four hours. This idea is that the body adapts to these times and incontinence is eliminated.
  • Antispasmodics: Drugs that relax the bladder muscles and can help prevent uncontrolled bladder contractions.

It is important to know that pads and diapers are widely marketed today, but many doctors don’t recommend them for long-term use. They like to see their patients try to address the problem head-on with some of the approaches listed above or even with home remedies.

Home remedies for irritable bladder

There are a few different natural approaches to dealing with an irritable bladder. For example, many people find that pelvic floor exercises are helpful. These are exercises that can strengthen the muscles around the bladder, vagina, and penis. Dietary changes can also help with irritable bladder. Many people find there are certain foods that irritate the bladder. Bladder irritant foods can be different for everyone but tracking food consumption can help a person identify what aggravates them.

The following foods are common bladder irritants:

  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Carbonated drinks
  • Coffee and tea
  • Citrus fruits
  • Spicy foods
  • Chocolate
  • Corned beef
  • Apples, cantaloupes, and pineapples
  • Most cheeses
  • Tomatoes and tomato-based foods
  • Vinegar
  • Sour cream

Here are some foods that are easier on the bladder:

  • Broccoli, squash, kale, green beans, and lettuce
  • Cottage cheese
  • Ice cream
  • Turkey, chicken, and fish (minus the heavy spices)
  • Blueberries and pears
  • Wholegrain bread
  • Dried fruit
  • Popcorn
  • Peanuts
  • Spring water
  • Soy milk
  • Cranberry juice

This is just a sample; there are many other food items that are more bladder-friendly.

When it comes to diet, it really is a case of trial and error. What might irritate one person’s bladder may not affect another person’s bladder. What is really encouraging is that many people who have taken the time to monitor and adjust their diet are amazed at how their bladder irritation symptoms disappear.



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