Urinary bladder spasms occur when the bladder contracts involuntarily, which can cause a person to urinate. These spasms can be painful, and they may be embarrassing if they lead to an extreme urge to urinate or leakage of urine.
A variety of conditions can cause bladder spasms, but fortunately there are many treatments available.
In this article, learn what causes bladder spasms, how to prevent them, and how they relate to common bladder problems.
One of the most common conditions associated with bladder spasms is called overactive bladder (OAB). This is known to occur in people with urge incontinence.
According to the Urology Care Foundation, associated with the American Urological Association, an estimated 30 percent of men and 40 percent of women in the United States experience symptoms of OAB.
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) also frequently cause bladder spasms. UTIs occur when excess bacteria enter the urinary tract. In addition to bladder spasms, UTIs can cause pain in the lower abdomen, pelvis, back, and sides, as well as a fever, and a burning sensation when urinating.
Other causes of bladder spasms include:
Some diuretic medications may also contribute to bladder spasms.
Other symptoms of bladder spasms usually depend upon the underlying cause.
For example, additional OAB symptoms include:
- leaking urine
- frequent urges to urinate
- regularly waking up one or more times to use the bathroom during the night
Autonomic disorders affect the autonomic nervous system, which is responsible for bladder contractions. As a result, a person may experience uncontrolled bladder spasms.
Some symptoms of bladder spasms may mimic those of a UTI, even when an infection is not the underlying cause.
Doctors can prescribe a variety of medications to reduce the incidence of bladder spasms.
A doctor may first prescribe one of a group of medications called antimuscarinics. Examples include:
- darifenacin (Enablex)
- oxybutynin chloride (Ditropan)
- extended-release oxybutynin (Ditropan XL)
- solifenacin succinate (VESIcare)
- tolterodine (Detrol)
- tolterodine extended-related (Detrol LA)
- trospium chloride (Sanctura)
However, these medications can have undesired side effects, including pupil dilation, which can lead to light sensitivity, and dry mouth. If a person experiences ill effects, the doctor will prescribe a different medication.
Tricyclic antidepressants can also be used to treat bladder spasms. These include amitriptyline (Elavil), doxepin (Sinequan), and imipramine (Tofranil).
Doctors may recommend treatments that complement medication. For example, if a person is retaining a significant amount of urine after they try to urinate normally, they may require self-catheterization. This involves inserting a thin, flexible catheter into the bladder, providing an exit route for urine.
Another option is for a doctor to inject botulinum toxin (Botox) into the bladder wall. This can reduce the incidence of bladder spasms.
A doctor may also recommend electrical nerve stimulation. This involves implanting or temporarily inserting a stimulator that sends electrical pulses to the nerves that affect the bladder.
For many people, stress can trigger or worsen bladder spasms. Taking steps to reduce stress whenever possible may lead to fewer spasms.
Popular ways to reduce stress include:
- getting enough rest
- exercising regularly
- reading a book
- engaging in a hobby
A person may also use techniques to distract themselves from the urge to urinate. This is known as urgency suppression.
Practicing pelvic floor exercises, such as Kegels, may also help reduce urine leakage.
According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases in the U.S., no changes in nutrition have been shown to reduce the incidence of urinary incontinence.
However, anecdotal evidence suggests that avoiding foods such as alcohol, tomatoes, caffeine, chocolate, and citrus drinks may help to reduce bladder symptoms.
Bladder spasms usually only require emergency care when a person also has a high fever, severe pelvic pain, or a significant amount of blood in their urine.
Anyone who has frequent bladder spasms, is not making it to the bathroom in time, or finds themselves leaking urine, should see a doctor.
The doctor will evaluate symptoms and consider potential underlying causes before determining the best treatment plan.
Bladder spasms may be uncomfortable, painful, and sometimes embarrassing, but they can be treated.
People who regularly experience bladder spasms that lead to urinary incontinence should speak with a doctor.
From medications to surgical interventions, many approaches can reduce the incidence of spasms and help a person to feel comfortable again.