Many conditions cause symptoms of “cystitis.” These include infections of the bladder, vesical inflammation due to chemical or x-radiation reactions, interstitial cystitis, prostatitis, psychoneurosis, torsion or rupture of an ovarian cyst, and foreign bodies in the bladder. Often, however, the patient with chronic cystitis notices no symptoms of vesical irritability. Irritating chemicals or soap on the urethral meatus may cause cystitis-like symptoms of dysuria, frequency, and urgency. This has been specifically noted in young girls taking frequent bubble baths.
Frequency, Nocturia, and Urgency
The normal capacity of the bladder is about 400 mL. Frequency may be caused by residual urine, which decreases the functional capacity of the organ. When the mucosa, submucosa, and even the muscularis become inflamed (eg, infection, foreign body, stones, tumor), the capacity of the bladder decreases sharply. This decrease is due to two factors: the pain resulting from even mild stretching of the bladder and the loss of bladder compliance resulting from inflammatory edema. When the bladder is normal, urination can be delayed if circumstances require it, but this is not so in acute cystitis. Once the diminished bladder capacity is reached, any further distention may be agonizing, and the patient may urinate involuntarily if voiding does not occur immediately. During very severe acute infections, the desire to urinate may be constant, and each voiding may produce only a few milliliters of urine. Day frequency without nocturia and acute or chronic frequency lasting only a few hours suggest nervous tension.
Diseases that cause fibrosis of the bladder are accompanied by frequency of urination. Examples of such diseases are tuberculosis, radiation cystitis, interstitial cystitis, and schistosomiasis. The presence of stones or foreign bodies causes vesical irritability, but secondary infection is almost always present.
Nocturia may be a symptom of renal disease related to a decrease in the functioning renal parenchyma with loss of concentrating power. Nocturia can occur in the absence of disease in persons who drink excessive amounts of fluid in the late evening. Coffee and alcoholic beverages, because of their specific diuretic effect, often produce nocturia if consumed just before bedtime. In older people who are ambulatory, some fluid retention may develop secondary to mild heart failure or varicose veins. With recumbency at night, this fluid is mobilized, leading to nocturia in these patients.
A very low or very high urine pH can irritate the bladder and cause frequency of urination.
Painful urination is usually related to acute inflammation of the bladder, urethra, or prostate. At times, the pain is described as “burning” on urination and is usually located in the distal urethra in men. Women usually localize the pain to the urethra. The pain is present only with voiding and disappears soon after micturition is completed. More severe pain sometimes occurs in the bladder just at the end of voiding, suggesting that inflammation of the bladder is the likely cause. Pain also may be more marked at the beginning of or throughout the act of urination. Dysuria often is the first symptom suggesting urinary infection and is often associated with urinary frequency and urgency.
Strictly speaking, enuresis means bedwetting at night. It is physiologic during the first 2 or 3 years of life but becomes troublesome, particularly to parents, after that age. It may be functional or secondary to delayed neuromuscular maturation of the urethrovesical component, but it may present as a symptom of organic disease (eg, infection, distal urethral stenosis in girls, posterior urethral valves in boys, neurogenic bladder). If wetting occurs also during the daytime, however, or if there are other urinary symptoms, urologic investigation is essential. In adult life, enuresis may be replaced by nocturia for which no organic basis can be found.
Symptoms of Bladder Outlet Obstruction
Hesitancy in initiating the urinary stream is one of the early symptoms of bladder outlet obstruction. As the degree of obstruction increases, hesitancy is prolonged and the patient often strains to force urine through the obstruction. Prostate obstruction and urethral stricture are common causes of this symptom.
Loss of Force and Decrease of Caliber of the Stream
Progressive loss of force and caliber of the urinary stream is noted as urethral resistance increases despite the generation of increased intravesical pressure. This can be evaluated by measuring urinary flow rates; in normal circumstances with a full bladder, a maximal flow of 20 mL/s should be achieved.
Terminal dribbling becomes more and more noticeable as obstruction progresses and is a most distressing symptom.
A strong, sudden desire to urinate is caused by hyperactivity and irritability of the bladder, resulting from obstruction, inflammation, or neuropathic bladder disease. In most circumstances, the patient is able to control temporarily the sudden need to void, but loss of small amounts of urine may occur (urgency incontinence).
Sudden inability to urinate may supervene. The patient experiences increasingly agonizing suprapubic pain associated with severe urgency and may dribble only small amounts of urine.
Chronic Urinary Retention
Chronic urinary retention may cause little discomfort to the patient even though there is great hesitancy in starting the stream and marked reduction of its force and caliber. Constant dribbling of urine (paradoxic incontinence) may be experienced; it may be likened to water pouring over a dam.
Interruption of the Urinary Stream
Interruption may be abrupt and accompanied by severe pain radiating down the urethra. This type of reaction strongly suggests the complication of vesical calculus.
The patient often feels that urine is still in the bladder even after urination has been completed.
Recurring episodes of acute cystitis suggest the presence of residual urine.
Incontinence (See Also Chapter 27)
There are many reasons for incontinence. The history often gives a clue to its cause.
The patient may lose urine without warning; this may be a constant or periodic symptom. The more obvious causes include previous radical prostatectomy, exstrophy of the bladder, epispadias, vesicovaginal fistula, and ectopic ureteral orifice. Injury to the urethral smooth muscle sphincters may occur during prostatectomy or childbirth. Congenital or acquired neurogenic diseases may lead to dysfunction of the bladder and incontinence.
When slight weakness of the sphincteric mechanisms is present, urine may be lost in association with physical strain (eg, coughing, laughing, rising from a chair). This is common in multiparous women who have weakened muscle support of the bladder neck and urethra and in men who have undergone radical prostatectomy. Occasionally, neuropathic bladder dysfunction can cause stress incontinence. The patient stays dry while lying in bed.
Urgency may be so precipitate and severe that there is involuntary loss of urine. Urge incontinence does not infrequently occur with acute cystitis, particularly in women, since women seem to have relatively poor anatomic sphincters. Urge incontinence is a common symptom of an upper motor neuron lesion.
Paradoxic incontinence is loss of urine due to chronic urinary retention or secondary to a flaccid bladder. The intravesical pressure finally equals the urethral resistance; urine then constantly dribbles forth.
Oliguria and anuria may be caused by acute renal failure (due to shock or dehydration), fluid-ion imbalance, or bilateral ureteral obstruction.
The passage of gas in the urine strongly suggests a fistula between the urinary tract and the bowel. This occurs most commonly in the bladder or urethra but may be seen also in the ureter or renal pelvis. Carcinoma of the sigmoid colon, diverticulitis with abscess formation, regional enteritis, and trauma cause most vesical fistulas. Congenital anomalies account for most urethroenteric fistulas. Certain bacteria, by the process of fermentation, may liberate gas on rare occasions.
Patients often complain of cloudy urine, but it is most often cloudy merely because it is alkaline; this causes precipitation of phosphate. Infection can also cause urine to be cloudy and malodorous. A properly performed urinalysis will reveal the cause of cloudiness.
The passage of lymphatic fluid or chyle is noted by the patient as passage of milky white urine. This represents a lymphatic–urinary system fistula. Most often, the cause is obstruction of the renal lymphatics, which results in forniceal rupture and leakage. Filariasis, trauma, tuberculosis, and retroperitoneal tumors have caused the problem.
Hematuria is a danger signal that cannot be ignored. Carcinoma of the kidney or bladder, calculi, and infection are a few of the conditions in which hematuria is typically demonstrable at the time of presentation. It is important to know whether urination is painful or not, whether the hematuria is associated with symptoms of vesical irritability, and whether blood is seen in all or only a portion of the urinary stream. The hemoglobinuria that occurs as a feature of the hemolytic syndromes may also cause the urine to be red.
Bloody Urine in Relation to Symptoms and Diseases
Hematuria associated with renal colic suggests a ureteral stone, although a clot from a bleeding renal tumor can cause the same type of pain.
Hematuria is not uncommonly associated with nonspecific, tuberculous, or schistosomal infection of the bladder. The bleeding is often terminal (bladder neck or prostate), although it may be present throughout urination (vesical or upper tract). Stone in the bladder often causes hematuria, but infection is usually present, and there are symptoms of bladder neck obstruction, neurogenic bladder, or cystocele.
Dilated veins may develop at the bladder neck secondary to enlargement of the prostate. These may rupture when the patient strains to urinate, resulting in gross or microscopic hematuria.
Hematuria without other symptoms (silent hematuria) must be regarded as a symptom of tumor of the bladder or kidney until proved otherwise. It is usually intermittent; bleeding may not recur for months. Because the bleeding stops spontaneously, complacency must be condemned. Less common causes of silent hematuria are staghorn calculus, polycystic kidneys, benign prostatic hyperplasia, solitary renal cyst, sickle cell disease, and hydronephrosis. Painless bleeding is common with acute glomerulonephritis. Recurrent bleeding is occasionally seen in children suffering from focal glomerulitis. Joggers and people who engage in participatory sports frequently develop transient proteinuria and gross or microscopic hematuria.
Learning whether the hematuria is partial (initial, terminal) or total (present throughout urination) is often of help in identifying the site of bleeding. Initial hematuria suggests an anterior urethral lesion (eg, urethritis, stricture, meatal stenosis in young boys). Terminal hematuria usually arises from the posterior urethra, bladder neck, or trigone. Among the common causes are posterior urethritis and polyps and tumors of the vesical neck. Total hematuria has its source at or above the level of the bladder (eg, stone, tumor, tuberculosis, nephritis).