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The Link Between Obesity and Bladder Prolapse

Research estimates suggest about half of all women experience one or more forms of pelvic organ prolapse at some point in their lives. Prolapse refers to an organ slipping forward or down from its usual location.

The doctors of Gulf Coast Urology specialize in treating bladder prolapse, a condition that frequently contributes to chronic urinary incontinence. Bladder prolapse often occurs in women who’ve delivered one or more children vaginally, those who’ve had a hysterectomy, or those reaching menopause. 

There’s also increasing evidence that obesity and extra weight may contribute to all forms of pelvic organ prolapse, including the bladder.

What is bladder prolapse?

Normally, the bladder suspends in the pelvis in a hammock of support tissue. As these tissues stretch and weaken, the bladder may drop and press into the vagina. Bladder prolapse is common and it’s not always symptomatic. When symptoms do appear, they typically include:

We can detect prolapse through a pelvic exam or with medical diagnostic equipment for a detailed examination of the pelvic floor.  

The increasing effects of body mass

Since the start of the 21st Century, there’s been a sharp climb in the rate of obesity, defined as a body mass index (BMI) over 30. High BMI already presents a significant risk factor for many health issues, including diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, arthritis, and gynecological conditions like uterine fibroids, menstrual dysfunction, and infertility.

High BMI contributes to urinary incontinence by placing pressure on the bladder, creating an artificially smaller bladder capacity. Body mass may also affect the nerves that control both the sensations and muscle control functions surrounding urination. There’s even a direct correlation between higher BMI and frequency of incontinence episodes.

Obesity and prolapse

The pelvic pressures created by high BMI also exert strain on the muscles and fascia tissue of the pelvic floor, the tissues that hold the bladder and other pelvic organs in place. The precise role of obesity in bladder prolapse remains vague, but statistical analysis of many observational studies shows that having a BMI over 30 increases your chances of experiencing pelvic organ prolapse.

This correlation was even more substantial when analysis factored out self-reported results. That is, when studies looked only at medically confirmed cases of prolapse, risk ratios were higher than the average across all participants.

For any bladder issue, contact the Houston or Nassau Bay, Texas, office of Gulf Coast Urology for the finest female urology care. Don’t let embarrassment stop you from seeking treatment. Call or request an appointment online today. 

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