What bladder problems can occur with diabetes

Urologic problems affecting men and women with diabetes include bladder problems and urinary tract infections.

Diabetes, like many systemic pathologies, can cause damage to the nerves responsible for controlling bladder function, as can nutritional, metabolic or endocrinological diseases, as well as some injuries and infections. In more than 50% of cases, women and men with diabetes have bladder dysfunction. This is caused by damaged nerves that control bladder function and negatively affects the patient’s quality of life.

Bladder problems are common in men and women with diabetes, and include the following:

  • Overactive bladder. Damaged nerves may send signals to the bladder at the wrong time, causing the muscles to contract without warning. Symptoms of overactive bladder include:
    • Urinary frequency: urinating more than eight times a day, or two or more times at night.
    • Urinary urgency: sudden and intense urge to urinate immediately.
    • Urinary incontinence: dribbling of urine after sudden, intense urges to urinate
  • Inadequate control of the sphincter muscles. If the nerves of the sphincter muscles are damaged, the muscles may loosen and allow dribbling or remain closed when the person tries to pass urine.
  • Urinary retention: An overfull bladder collects urine under pressure and can damage the kidneys. Urine accumulated for too long without passing it can develop:
    • Kidney or bladder infections
    • Overflow incontinence
    • Leakage of urine when the bladder is full and does not empty completely.

Diagnosis of bladder problems and their treatment should be reviewed by a Urology specialist and treated on an individual basis.

What types of urinary tract infections can occur in diabetes?

When bacteria get into the urinary tract they can cause infections, such as:

  • Urethritis: infection of the urethra.
  • Cystitis – an infection of the bladder.
  • Pyelonephritis: infection of the kidney
  • If bacteria grow in the urethra, this infection is known as urethritis.
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Sometimes urinary tract infections can become chronic or recurrent. Symptoms of urinary tract infections include:

  • Urgent need to urinate
  • Odor or burning in the bladder or urethra during urination
  • Cloudy or reddish urine
  • In women, pressure on the pubic area
  • In men, sensation of fullness of the rectum

When instead the infection is located in the kidney, the symptoms would be:

  • Nausea
  • Back pain
  • Flank pain
  • Fever

Habitual urination may be a sign of elevated blood glucose, so recent blood glucose control results should be analyzed. This effect may also be caused by some drugs.

The study of urinary tract infections should be left to the urologist, endocrinologist or family physician. These professionals will be in charge of carrying out the necessary diagnostic tests, as well as the therapeutic prescription.