Bladder spasm

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Bladder spasm
Classification and external resources
ICD-10N32.8, F45.3
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Bladder spasm
Classification and external resources
ICD-10N32.8, F45.3

A bladder spasm is a contraction of the bladder which generates an urge to urinate, sometimes accompanied by extreme pain. Incontinence may occur if the bladder spasm continues, as the contraction will force urine out. Any resulting stream of urine may be impossible to stop, as the patient does not have control over his or her bladder.

A number of conditions can lead to bladder spasm; all should be addressed by a doctor.

When a bladder spasm occurs, the bladder randomly contracts, as though the patient is about to urinate. The patient feels like he or she needs to urinate, and some leakage may occur. One of the most common causes of incontinence in the elderly is bladder spasms, which can also occur in young children and pregnant women as well as animals. The spasms may be violent, with patients comparing them to cramps.

In spite of ordinarily-adequate post-operative analgesia, such as an epidural or an opioid infusion, bladder spasms remain a problem for some surgical patients. When bladder spasms occur in children, they can be traumatic for the child and a cause of frustration for hospital staff and anxious parents who find it difficult to deal with the fact that a child is in excruciating pain in spite of being on strong analgesia.[1]


Symptoms include urgent need to urinate, leakage, and cramping pain.


Causes include diet, medication, urinary tract infections, irritation from catheters, recent surgery, and changes in the blood supply and nerves controlling the bladder.

Weak muscles[edit]

Weak pelvic muscles may let the bladder sag out of position, which can stretch the urethral opening, leading to bladder spasms.

Nerve damage[edit]

Nerve damage may result in mistimed or erroneous signals, and the bladder may react with spasms. (Nerve damage may also prevent fullness signals from reaching the brain.) Nerve damage may be caused by diabetes, Parkinson's Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, and stroke; by trauma; by pelvic or back surgery; by a herniated disc; or by radiation.

Interstitial cystitis[edit]

Interstitial cystitis, the cause of which is unknown, may in turn cause bladder spasms.

Urinary tract infection[edit]

The most common cause of bladder spasms is a urinary tract infection (UTI), which is characterized by a burning sensation during urination and cloudy, foul-smelling urine. UTI may result in chills, vomiting, fever, and flank pain.

Catheter-related irritation[edit]

If bladder spasms occur or there is no urine in the drainage bag when a catheter is in place, the catheter may be blocked by blood, thick sediment, or a kink in the catheter or drainage tubing. Sometimes spasms are caused by the catheter irritating the bladder, prostate or penis. Such spasms can be controlled with medication such as butylscopolamine, although most patients eventually adjust to the irritation and the spasms go away.[2]


Sometimes medication causes bladder spasm. Medicines that include bethanechol or valrubicin (a chemotherapy drug) can cause bladder spasm because they help force water from the body.

Treatment includes bladder training, anticholinergic medication, electrical stimulation, pelvic floor exercises and surgery. Surgery is rarely helpful in controlling bladder spasms.


  1. ^ D. Gillies Æ L. Lane Æ D. Murrell Æ R. Cohen, Bladder spasm in children after surgery for ureteric reimplantation. Pediatr Surg Int (2003) 19: 733–736
  2. ^ "Urinary catheters". MedlinePlus, the National Institutes of Health's Web site. 2010-03-09. Retrieved 2010-12-01. 

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