Bladder Prolapse

Bladder prolapse, or cystocele, is a condition that causes a woman’s bladder to drop and bulge through the pelvic floor into the vagina. It can occur when the ligaments that support the bladder and the muscles and tissues of the pelvic floor weaken. Bladder prolapse is a fairly common condition and can be bothersome, but treatment options are available.

Causes of Bladder Prolapse

The most common cause of bladder prolapse is a weakening of the pelvic floor due to childbirth. Women who go through several pregnancies and deliver vaginally are at higher risk.

Other potential causes include:

  • Heavy lifting
  • Chronic coughing
  • Frequent constipation
  • Menopause
  • Prior pelvic surgery
  • Aging

Symptoms of Bladder Prolapse

The main symptom of a bladder prolapse is a noticeable feeling of a bulge in the vagina. This may be accompanied by:

  • A frequent urge to urinate 
  • Urinary incontinence 
  • Frequent urinary tract infections 
  • Painful sexual intercourse 
  • Pain in the vagina, pelvic area or lower back

Diagnosis of Bladder Prolapse

In most cases, a physician can diagnose a bladder prolapse by reviewing the patient’s clinical history and performing a pelvic exam. Once the diagnosis has been made, other tests or procedures may be performed to determine the severity of the condition. This can include X-rays, an MRI, an ultrasound or a cystoscopy.

There are three grades of bladder prolapse:

  • Grade 1 (mild) – The bladder drops a short way into the vagina.  
  • Grade 2 (moderate) – The bladder drops into the vaginal opening.
  • Grade 3 (severe) – The bladder pushes through the opening of the vagina.

Treatments for Bladder Prolapse

Some mild cases of bladder prolapse don’t produce bothersome symptoms and therefore don’t require treatment. However, if the condition is affecting the patient’s quality of life, a variety of treatment options are available, including:

  • Behavior therapy – This can include physical therapy, Kegel exercises or the use of a vaginal support device.
  • Estrogen replacement therapy – This may help reverse vaginal weakening and incontinence.
  • Surgery – There are several types of procedures that can move the bladder back into its proper position.

Tampa General Hospital treats many different urological conditions affecting women and is the first hospital in Florida to offer the most advanced robotic technology to allow for a faster and less painful recovery for urologic procedures.