What Causes Bladder Pressure & Discomfort?

The bladder is a major organ of the urinary tract system. It is located in the pelvis, above and behind the pubic bone. Urine is made in the kidneys and travels to the bladder through a pair of tubes called ureters that connect these organs. The bladder stores urine until it receives signals from the body to empty. Urine then exits the bladder through the urethra. Different conditions involving the bladder and urethra can cause a sensation of fullness or pressure over the bladder.

A woman is holding a heat pad on her lower stomach. (Image: Piotr Marcinski/iStock/Getty Images)

Infection and Inflammation

Urinary tract infections are common in women though they may also occur in men. As many as half of women will have at least one urinary tract infection in their lifetime. Inflammation from the infection may cause swelling within the bladder lining or wall, triggering a sensation of pressure. Other symptoms can include burning with urination, increased frequency of urination and even leakage of urine. These infections are usually effectively treated with antibiotics. Some people may experience similar urinary tract symptoms without clinical evidence for an infection. This may occur in a condition known as interstitial cystitis, the exact cause of which is unknown. Antibiotics are not effective for this condition. Treatments may include oral medications to treat nerve related discomfort and medications used to wash out the bladder.

Muscular Disorders

Overactive bladder is a common condition that affects more than 30 million adults in the U.S. It occurs when nerves and muscles of the bladder become too sensitive and trigger the bladder to squeeze urine out before it has had the chance to fill properly. The bladder contractions can sometimes cause sensations of pressure over the bladder. Leaking of urine, or incontinence, is a common symptom as well. Other medical conditions may be associated with overactive bladder, such as urinary tract infections, diabetes, Parkinson's disease, stroke and spinal cord injuries. Medications are available to decrease the spasm of the bladder muscles. Bladder training exercises, Kegel exercises and biofeedback may also be effective.


Any condition that blocks the flow of urine out of the bladder can trigger a sensation of pressure over the area. This backup of urine, called urinary retention, causes the bladder to become overly full or stretched. Urinary retention may result from growths or tumors in the bladder depending on their location. Kidney stones too can result in symptoms if they get trapped in the urethra.

The prostate is a walnut-sized organ in men located around the urethra. If the prostate becomes enlarged, it can squeeze on the urethra partially blocking the exit of urine from the bladder. Infection of the prostate, known as prostatitis, is a common cause of urinary retention. Prostate cancer or noncancerous enlargement of the prostate, known as benign prostatic hypertrophy, are also frequent causes.

External Causes

Bladder discomfort can be caused by organs near and around the bladder. Pregnancy is a common culprit. The uterus, which is located above the bladder, grows in size over the course of the pregnancy and exerts direct pressure over the bladder. Tumors in the abdomen and pelvis can have a similar effect if they press on the bladder. These may include tumors in the colon, ovaries, uterus or prostate.

Seek medical advice from a health care provider to assess the cause of bladder pressure and discomfort if it continues to worsen or fails to resolve with time. This will identify the cause and most appropriate treatments to alleviate those symptoms.

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