Bladder dysfunction

A bladder that’s not working right often leads to urinary problems in men and women. Don’t put off talking to your doctor because you are embarrassed. There are many treatments for this common condition.

Types of Bladder Conditions

Problems with urination and your bladder can occur at any age. There are different types of bladder issues. Diabetes and nervous system damage both change how the bladder works. In men, an enlarged prostate or prostate removal can cause bladder conditions. In women, hormonal changes during menopause affect the bladder.

Bladder conditions we treat at UW Health include:

You have problems urinating. You may go too often, lose control or find it hard to urinate.

You feel a strong need to urinate, even when your bladder is not full. You leak or lose all of your urine.

Your bladder doesn't empty properly. This leads to leaks or a constant dribble of urine.

You leak urine when you cough, laugh, lift something heavy or sneeze. Leakage may be irregular or frequent.

You have symptoms of overactive bladder and stress incontinence.

Tests and prevention

Bladder dysfunction tests and prevention

Bladder dysfunction tests

There are different tests your doctor can use to find the cause of your bladder condition. They include:

Tracks the amount of urine your bladder holds.

Looks for urine leaks when you cough.

A thin tube with a camera looks inside your urethra and bladder.

Checks the level of urine in your bladder after you urinate.

Studies your urine for infection, kidney stones or other problems.

Tracks bladder pressure and urine flow.

Uses soundwaves to make pictures of your bladder, kidneys, ureters and urethra.

Treatments and research

Surgical and nonsurgical treatment options can control bladder conditions. Your care plan depends on your specific symptoms and diagnosis.

Nonsurgical treatments

You change how much and when you drink. You use the bathroom at scheduled times. This retrains your bladder.

You use devices to measure muscle strength while performing pelvic floor muscle exercises.

For women, Kegel exercises strengthen your pelvic floor and bladder muscles.

Your doctor injects a bulking agent like collagen near your bladder opening. This narrows the opening and reduces leakage.

For women, a ring-shaped device called a pessary is placed in the vagina. The pessary supports the bladder or uterus. This takes pressure off the bladder.

There are medicines that control strong urges to urinate. They work best for long-term use.

You work with a physical therapist to learn behavior modification, biofeedback, education and exercises to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles.

Surgical Treatments

A device like a pacemaker is implanted under your skin close to your tailbone. This stimulates the bladder nerves. If your urge incontinence doesn't respond to behavioral changes or medicine, this may be a good option for you.

This surgery repairs weakened ligaments to better support your bladder. Your doctor places a mesh material called a sling to support your urethra. Another option uses tissue from your own body to create the sling. 

This surgery provides relief for neurologic bladder conditions and those caused by an injury. Your doctor can make changes to improve bladder emptying and urine storage.

Research for your overall well-being

Our team is dedicated to treating the whole you. We partner with doctors doing research in prostate conditions and sexual health to understand how these conditions affect the bladder. 

Experimental use of Botox

UW Health doctors work continuously to find new ways to treat bladder problems. The use of Botox to treat overactive bladder is one example of how we put research to work.

In this treatment, your doctor injects Botox into your bladder muscles. This relaxes the muscles, reducing your urge to urinate. This treatment works particularly well for people with a bladder condition caused by nervous system injury.

Meet our team

Specialty bladder care

Your bladder care team includes doctors who are experts in gynecology and urology. The team also includes experts in colorectal surgery, gastroenterology and pelvic floor physical therapy.

Colorectal surgeons
Physical therapists

Patient and support services

Resources and support

Check out these articles, presentations and videos to learn more about living with a bladder condition.

  • Get answers to frequently asked questions about urine leakage and other pelvic floor disorders.

  • Learn how to manage your bladder condition.


Educational resources

Urinary incontinence is not a normal part of aging. Gynecologist Dr. Christine Heisler with the Women's Pelvic Wellness care team talks about common causes and treatments in this recording of a webinar presentation.

Bladder control: A common and treatable problem for women


Caring for you close to home

UW Health specialists treat bladder conditions at the Men’s Urology Health Clinic, Women’s Pelvic Wellness Clinic and other offices in convenient locations near you.