About the Bladder

The bladder is the name for a structure in the body that stores urine, which is made by the kidneys. Simply speaking, the bladder is a bag that expands as it fills with urine and contracts when it is full to empty. The middle part of the wall of the bladder is a muscle that can contract urine out from the bladder - this muscle is called the detrusor muscle. The bladder has an inner lining known as 'urothelium'. In women, urine is passed from the bladder to the outside world through the urethra. In men, the prostate sits between the bladder and the urethra, and the urethra is much longer in men than in women.

The bladder is behind the pubic bone, which is the firm structure that can be felt in the lower abdomen, and in front of the vagina in women or the rectum in men. As it fills, there is a sensation for the need to pass urine felt in the lower belly/abdomen. In women, the bladder and urethra are supported by muscles and the pelvic floor. These muscles help women stay dry and. In men, there are additional muscles present at the junction of the bladder and prostate, and the prostate and urethra.

 Women can have problems relating to staying dry either because the bladder muscle (detrusor) contracts and squeezes urine out of the bladder ('detrusor over activity') or because the support for the bladder and urethra is not sufficient to withstand pressure from coughing and lifting ('stress urinary incontinence'). Women may suffer from recurrent cystitis (urinary tract infections) or bladder discomfort and frequent urination with infection ('interstitial cystitis a.k.a. chronic pelvic pain syndrome).