What to know about bladder cysts
There are several types of bladder cyst, most of which are not cancerous.
Bladder cysts tend to cause no symptoms. A person may experience painful or frequent urination, and the condition may be mistaken for cystitis.
In this article, we describe the types, causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of bladder cysts.
What are bladder cysts?
Symptoms of bladder cysts may include an urgent need to urinate, excessive urination at night, and pain when urinating.
Cysts are pockets of tissue filled with air, pus, or other types of fluid. They may appear anywhere on the body, internally or externally. Bladder cysts tend to form in the lining of the bladder.
They are relatively rare in people who have a normally functioning urinary tract. These cysts tend to form as small, benign growths that can go unnoticed. A doctor often finds them only when diagnosing other pelvic issues.
In the bladder, cysts can cause similar symptoms to polyps, which are abnormal cell growths. Unlike cysts, polyps are not filled with any other material. They may be benign or cancerous.
Are bladder cysts cancerous?
Bladder cysts are almost always benign, which means that they are noncancerous.
A doctor should determine whether any newly formed lump is a cyst or a tumor, as tumors are more likely to become cancerous.
If a lump starts to grow abnormally or otherwise indicates cancer, a doctor will explore further testing and treatment options.
According to the American Cancer Society, chronic bladder infections or irritations can increase a person's risk of bladder cancer. If this is a concern, discuss it with a doctor, who will describe risk factors and monitor symptoms closely.
Most bladder cysts are tiny and cause no symptoms. A person tends to only experience symptoms when the cysts have grown large or when they have burst and become infected. Underlying conditions can lead to additional symptoms.
If symptoms appear, they can include:
- pain when urinating
- blood or off-colored streaks in the urine
- a painful need to urinate
- a continuous, urgent need to urinate
- inability to control the bladder, which is known as incontinence
- excessive urination at night
- pain in the lower back or pelvic region
- foul- or sour-smelling urine
Symptoms like these can also point to interstitial cystitis, a chronic bladder disease with no known cause. It often leads to severe pain during urination and very frequent urination, which can occur every ten minutes.
People with interstitial cystitis may experience worse pain when the bladder is full and feel relief when they urinate. Many also experience pain during sexual intercourse, which is not as common in people with bladder cysts.
A thorough diagnosis is essential and can prevent complications.
A CT scan can be used to diagnose a bladder cyst.
A doctor may begin by asking questions about recent symptoms and a person's individual and familial medical history. They may also test the urine for infection.
Receiving a correct diagnosis is key. It can ensure that a person receives the right treatment and avoids complications.
Doctors often discover bladder cysts when performing imaging tests of the pelvic area for other reasons. A general practitioner who suspects a bladder cyst or a similar condition may refer a person to a urologist for further testing.
Bladder cysts can be diagnosed using the following methods:
These allow a doctor to see the inside of the bladder and identify any cysts:
- X-rays and CT scans use radiation to make images.
- An ultrasound produces images using sound waves.
- An MRI scan uses radio frequency and a magnetic field to create highly detailed images.
The type of imaging test selected may depend on the suspected condition and the available equipment.
This allows a doctor or urologist to look inside the bladder and inspect cysts. It involves inserting a tube with a tiny camera through the urethra and into the bladder.
A cystoscopy may be performed under local, regional, or general anesthesia.
A bladder biopsy involves taking a piece of tissue from the cyst and sending it to a lab, where it is analyzed for malignancies.
A tube containing a camera and needle reaches the cyst by passing through the urethra. The process usually takes less than an hour.
There may be a few possible causes or no known cause of a bladder cyst. A doctor may be certain of the cause or believe that a range of issues may be responsible.
The following factors can increase a person's risk of developing bladder cysts:
- catheter use
- a history of surgery near the bladder
- a history of kidney stones or bladder stones
- frequent UTIs
Bladder cysts can be caused by a rare condition called cystitis cystica. It is associated with persistent inflammation in the urinary tract, possibly due to irritation or bacteria in the bladder.
Larger cysts may be removed through surgery.
Most cysts are small and asymptomatic. These will not always require treatment.
When bladder cysts cause symptoms and need to be removed, there are several options. A doctor may recommend draining smaller cysts, in a less invasive procedure.
For larger cysts or those that have become ruptured or infected, a doctor may recommend surgical removal.
Treatment may also involve addressing any related complication, such as a UTI.
Bladder cysts usually resolve without complications. However, the following can occur:
- Complete blockage. A cyst may grow over the opening in the bladder, completely cutting off the flow of urine. This can be serious if left untreated, and surgery is often necessary.
- Rupture. A cyst may burst and release its fluid into the bladder. This can lead to additional symptoms and infection.
- Infection. This can be serious and may affect several areas of the urinary tract. Infections need to be dealt with immediately.
Bladder cysts are typically benign, and many people never notice them. They can cause complications, and a doctor will check them periodically and test for abnormal cells.
When a person has symptoms of bladder cysts or frequently experiences UTIs, they should seek an evaluation. Receiving a diagnosis and treatment early can prevent complications and put the mind at ease.