Are Bladder Problems Common in People With IBS?

How the Disorders May Be Linked

If you have bladder problems, such as frequent urination, in addition to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), you are not alone. There is an overlap between bladder symptoms and IBS, and certain treatments can help provide relief.

This article discusses bladder conditions that often affect IBS patients, symptoms to watch out for, and when to see a doctor.

IBS and Bladder-Related Symptoms

Verywell / Laura Porter

Bladder Symptoms and IBS

IBS is a group of symptoms, notably abdominal pain and changes in bowel habits. The condition doesn't damage your digestive system, but it often affects your quality of life.

IBS doesn't cause urinary problems directly. But many of the same triggers for IBS, including stress and infection, are believed to play a role in urinary problems.

The bladder symptoms often experienced by people with IBS include:

  • Frequent urination
  • Incomplete emptying of the bladder
  • Nocturia (needing to get out of bed to urinate)
  • Urinary urgency (a sudden need to urinate)

Women with IBS may be more likely to experience urinary incontinence (leaking urine by accident) and overactive bladder (OAB) than women without IBS.

A 2012 study from Asahikawa Medical University in Japan reported that 33.3% of people who had IBS had overactive bladder as well. Women were affected slightly more frequently than men.

It isn't known for sure why people who have IBS are at higher risk for urinary problems and vice versa. Sometimes improving one of the two problems may lead to an improvement in the other.

Since the bladder and bowel are close together, there could be interaction between some of the nerves and muscles.

Other possible reasons could be inflammation around the bladder and bowel, or a nervous system issue affecting the whole region.

Recap

People with IBS are more likely to have urinary incontinence or overactive bladder. Bowel and bladder conditions may occur together because of issues with the nervous system or inflammation.

IBS and Urinary Disorders

The following health conditions affect the bladder and may be more common when you have IBS.

Interstitial Cystitis

Interstitial cystitis (IC), or painful bladder syndrome, causes frequent urination and chronic pain and discomfort in the bladder. Both IC and IBS have been associated with visceral hypersensitivity or heightened feelings of pain.

Researchers have said that the overlap between IC and IBS may be due to inflammation. It could also be due to "cross-sensitization," in which nerves supplying different areas affect each other.

If you have IC alongside IBS, work with your healthcare provider on a treatment plan that addresses both conditions. This may include medication, diet changes, and treatments such as physical therapy. It may also include biofeedback, which can help with relaxing muscles in the pelvic area.

Recap

Interstitial cystitis, or IC, causes frequent urination and chronic pain or discomfort. IC and IBS may occur together because of inflammation or nerve issues.

Pelvic Floor Dysfunction

Pelvic floor dysfunction (PFD) is another condition that could result in both IBS and frequent urination. In PFD, the muscles in the pelvis that are responsible for passing urine and stool do not work as they should. This dysfunction might explain why you would experience bowel and bladder symptoms simultaneously.

PFD is common in people with IBS. The American College of Gastroenterology's IBS guidelines recommend PFD testing when you have IBS along with PFD symptoms or constipation not responding to treatment.

If you're diagnosed with PFD, speak with your healthcare provider about your treatment options. A variety of treatments are available, including physical therapy, biofeedback, and medications.

Recap

In pelvic floor dysfunction (PFD), the muscles that control bladder and bowel function don't work correctly. The American College of Gastroenterology recommends testing for pelvic floor dysfunction in some patients with IBS.

Chronic Prostatitis

Chronic prostatitis/chronic pelvic pain syndrome (CP/CPPS) is a chronic form of prostatitis some males can experience alongside IBS. CP/CPPS results in a variety of symptoms, including urinary pain, urinary urgency, and incontinence.

Your healthcare provider can prescribe medication to ease the symptoms of CP/CPPS.

Urge Incontinence

Urge incontinence is a urinary disorder that results in symptoms of urinary urgency and involuntary leaking of urine. A variety of different health conditions may be at the root of symptoms. 

What to Do If You Have Both

If you are experiencing bowel and bladder symptoms, bring both to the attention of your healthcare provider. Because of the stigma regarding "bathroom symptoms," many people are too shy to discuss their issues with their healthcare providers.

Don't be embarrassed. Elimination is a normal part of being human, as your healthcare provider well knows. They will help find a diagnosis and provide you a plan to manage each problem.

Depending on your condition, you might also get a referral to a urologist, urogynecologist, or neurologist.

Based on your diagnosis, your doctor will tailor your treatment for the bladder problem you are experiencing. For example, if your problems are related to pelvic floor dysfunction, your doctor may recommend physical therapy or biofeedback.

If your symptoms appear to be related to visceral hypersensitivity, they may recommend a medication that targets the nervous system. This could be a medication to increase levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin or a medication with anticholinergic effects.

Summary

People with IBS are often more likely to have a bladder condition such as interstitial cystitis or pelvic floor dysfunction. Researchers have suggested this could be due to inflammation or nervous system issues. Depending on the bladder condition, treatment may include medication, biofeedback, or physical therapy.

A Word From Verywell

It can be frustrating to deal with a bladder condition in addition to IBS. Knowing the reasons why they occur together can help when finding a treatment plan. Let your doctor know your symptoms, both bladder and bowel-related. They can help you narrow down a diagnosis and find the right treatment.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can bowel problems affect the bladder?

    It's possible. Muscles and nerves that control the bowel can affect the muscles and nerves that control the bladder. Stool in the colon can also put pressure on the bladder, causing it to contract when it shouldn't.

  • What are the symptoms of IBS in women?

    In addition to bowel-related symptoms, women who have IBS are more likely to experience symptoms of pelvic organ prolapse, urinary urgency, and sexual dysfunction. There's also evidence that IBS symptoms tend to get worse at certain times during the menstrual cycle.

IBS Doctor Discussion Guide

Get our printable guide for your next healthcare provider's appointment to help you ask the right questions.

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6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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