Urinary Bladder - Function, Conditions, Warning Signs and Symptoms
Know your Body

Urinary Bladder That Cleanses Your System

Dr.Surya Rao Poodipeddi profile Authored by Dr.Surya Rao Poodipeddi on 13 Mar 2014 - 17:00.

Urinary Bladder

Human Urinary Bladder is a muscular membranous sac in the pelvis that stores urine for discharge through the urethra. It acts as a reservoir to collect urine manufactured in the kidneys through two narrow long tubes called the ureters.

Commonly called as bladder the human urinary bladder has a positional difference in males and females. In the males it lies between the front part of the pelvic bone called the symphysis pubis and the rectum, whereas, in case of females, the bladder lies between the symphysis pubis and the uterus, which separates it from the rectum behind it.

When full, the bladder resembles a punching bag. Its capacity varies with individuals from 1/4th to 3/4th liters.

The bladder has a dual valve system to store and empty urine to the outside via a tube called Urethra which differs in its length in males and females. In the females the urethra is short measuring about 3 to 5 centimeters. In the males the urethra is longer measuring around 20 to 30 centimeters.

The muscles at the top of the opening for exit open up first and then the muscles below squeeze to empty the bladder. Unlike voluntary muscles with which we can control some actions the sphincter in the bladder consists of muscle fibers with which we have no control. It therefore is next to impossible to postpone urinating when once the bladder is full. 

This involuntary voiding in children is called bed-wetting. They often need training how to void urine in the toilet instead of allowing it to empty in the bed.

While in females the urethra acts only as a tube to empty the urine when the bladder is full, the urethra in the males has a dual function in that the same tubular structure ejects semen during sexual intercourse and doesn’t allow urine to come out. The reverse is the case when urine is passed through the same tube when you can never pass semen. In other words one cannot pass urine during a sex act nor can he pass semen while urinating. Both acts can never be accomplished simultaneously.

The function of the kidney which manufactures urine can be assessed by examining a sample of urine. Any deviation in the normal values of urine gives us an idea as to what went wrong with the kidneys. The main tests of urine include specific gravity, color, consistency (thin or cloudy) and presence of frank or occult blood  and other tests for albumin, sugar, bile salts etc. all of which gives full information about the state of health of the kidneys.

Conditions of the bladder:

Of all the conditions reported to the doctor about 6 percent cover the urinary tract. In most cases the disorder is due to an infection in or around the urinary bladder.

In majority of these infections the common organism responsible turns out to be a bacterium called Escherichia coli. This germ usually lives in the bowel but can find its way to the bladder through the urethra especially in females whose urethra is very small and infection can travel very easily. 

There is one condition which occurs only in males, called prostatitis which narrows the portion of the urethra which passes through it and leads to scanty flow or sometimes retention of urine in the very elderly males. Narrowing of the urethra can occur in both males and females due to stricture urethra caused through sexually transmitted diseases, mainly gonorrhea.

Most of the infections in the bladder clear easily with antibiotic treatment. However, some of them may ascend to the kidney causing pyelonephritis. Sometimes the glomeruli of the kidneys get involved due to autoimmune process where the body’s defense mechanism erroneously attacks its own tissues. 

In some cases a disease called nephritic syndrome may present itself due to diabetes and some poisonous drugs like over dosage of aspirin.

Tumors of the urinary tract are most common in the urinary bladder. Hard masses of mineral salts called bladder stones may form in the bladder (and also in the kidneys) either due to infection or a blood abnormality or gout.

The most common condition encountered in both males and females is Urinary Incontinence. In females it is more often due to stress. In males advancing age is the commonest cause due to degeneration of the nerves supplying the bladder besides a condition called enlarged prostate.

In babies and children there may be few symptoms of urinary infection like pallor and failure to put on weight or even frequent bed-wetting. In the newly married and pregnant women urinary tract infections are most common but often not serious. However, a doctor needs to be consulted whenever there is infection in the bladder.

Cancer of the urinary bladder occurs higher than normal incidence mainly in Industrial workers employed in chemical, dye-stuff and rubber industries.

Those with high blood pressure, especially uncontrolled, have more chances for urinary tract infections, mainly in the bladder.

The main symptoms to suspect infection in the bladder are burning sensation while passing urine, frequency of urination, fever and weakness and blood in urine with or without discoloration. You have to consult a doctor for thorough evaluation.

Warning signs and symptoms of an impending emergency situation are inability to pass urine, blood in urine and a severe pain in the lower back beneath the ribs. These symptoms and signs warrant immediate action. More often an initial catheterization or even an opening in the bladder to fix a catheter is done to relieve the bladder from retention which might burst if not promptly relieved.


To prevent problems in the urinary bladder:

  •  Keep the genitals and the surrounding areas scrupulously clean. This holds importance for females and they must clean thoroughly from front to back after defecation because of the short length of the urethra in females.
  • Drink plenty of water especially during hot weather.
  • Never exceed the prescribed dosage of aspirin and other related pain killers because excess use may damage the kidneys.
  • Avoid extramarital or unprotected sex to prevent sexually transmitted diseases. If it is a must use condoms which might help prevent transmission of deadly diseases like AIDS.



*Disclaimer: This is not medical advice. The content is for educational purposes only. Please contact your doctor for any health care issues.