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Cystocele facts*

*Cystocele (Fallen Bladder) Facts by John P. Cunha, DO, FACOE

  • A cystocele occurs when the wall between a woman's bladder and her vagina weakens and allows the bladder to droop into the vagina.
  • Symptoms of a cystocele include urine leakage and incomplete emptying of the bladder.
  • Causes of cystocele include muscle straining during childbirth, straining from heavy lifting, repeated straining during bowel movements, and menopause.
  • Treatment ranges from no treatment for a mild cystocele to surgery for a serious cystocele. A pessary (a device placed in the vagina to hold the bladder in place) may be recommended.

What is a cystocele?

A cystocele occurs when the wall between a woman's bladder and her vagina weakens and allows the bladder to droop into the vagina. This condition may cause discomfort and problems with emptying the bladder.

A bladder that has dropped from its normal position may cause two kinds of problems -- unwanted urine leakage and incomplete emptying of the bladder. In some women, a fallen bladder stretches the opening into the urethra, causing urine leakage when the woman coughs, sneezes, laughs, or moves in any way that puts pressure on the bladder.

A cystocele is mild -- grade 1 -- when the bladder droops only a short way into the vagina. With a more severe - grade 2 - cystocele, the bladder sinks far enough to reach the opening of the vagina. The most advanced -- grade 3 -- cystocele occurs when the bladder bulges out through the opening of the vagina.

What causes a cystocele?

A cystocele may result from muscle straining while giving birth. Other kinds of straining -- such as heavy lifting or repeated straining during bowel movements -- may also cause the bladder to fall. The hormone estrogen helps keep the muscles around the vagina strong. When women go through menopause -- that is, when they stop having menstrual periods -- their bodies stop making estrogen, so the muscles around the vagina and bladder may grow weak.

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How is a cystocele diagnosed?

A doctor may be able to diagnose a grade 2 or grade 3 cystocele from a description of symptoms and from physical examination of the vagina because the fallen part of the bladder will be visible. Other tests may be needed to find or rule out problems in other parts of the urinary system.

How is a cystocele treated?

Treatment options range from no treatment for a mild cystocele to surgery for a serious cystocele. If a cystocele is not bothersome, the doctor may only recommend avoiding heavy lifting or straining that could cause the cystocele to worsen. If symptoms are moderately bothersome, the doctor may recommend a pessary -- a device placed in the vagina to hold the bladder in place. Pessaries come in a variety of shapes and sizes to allow the doctor to find the most comfortable fit for the patient. Pessaries must be removed regularly to avoid infection or ulcers.

Large cystoceles may require surgery to move and keep the bladder in a more normal position. This operation may be performed by a gynecologist, a urologist, or a urogynecologist. The most common procedure for cystocele repair is for the surgeon to make an incision in the wall of the vagina and repair the area by tightening the layers of tissue that separate the organs, creating more support for the bladder. The patient may stay in the hospital for several days and take 4 to 6 weeks to recover fully.

For More Information

American Urological Association Foundation
1000 Corporate Boulevard
Linthicum, MD 21090
Phone: 1–866–RING–AUA (746–4282) or 410–689–3700
Fax: 410–689–3800
Email: patienteducation@auafoundation.org
Internet: www.auafoundation.org
www.UrologyHealth.org

American Urogynecologic Society
2025 M Street NW, Suite 800
Washington, DC 20036
Phone: 202–367–1167
Fax: 202–367–2167
Email: info@augs.org
Internet: www.augs.org

National Association for Continence
P.O. Box 1019
Charleston, SC 29402–1019
Phone: 1–800–BLADDER (252–3337) or 843–377–0900
Fax: 843–377–0905
Email: memberservices@nafc.org
Internet: www.nafc.org

Medically reviewed by Steven Nelson, MD; Board Certified Obstetrics and Gynecology

SOURCE: National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse, National Institutes of Health (www.nih.gov). Last update: 8/1/2007

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Reviewed on 4/15/2014
References
Medically reviewed by Steven Nelson, MD; Board Certified Obstetrics and Gynecology

SOURCE: National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse, National Institutes of Health (www.nih.gov). Last update: 8/1/2007

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