Cystocele Symptoms, Causes and Treatments

When the wall between the bladder and the vagina weakens, the bladder may drop or sag into the vaginal wall. This disorder, which can happen to women of any age, is called a cystocele or anterior vaginal wall prolapse. At Coyle Institute, we work with patients daily to repair cystoceles and are highly experienced in treating them in safe and effective ways. Rather than tolerating the symptoms of a cystocele, it is important to receive a definitive diagnosis and be treated to avoid further complications.

What is a Cystocele?

A cystocele is essentially a bulge of the bladder into the vagina. It is extremely common, with experts estimating that nearly half of women who have given birth have some degree of pelvic organ prolapse. Cystoceles have different grades:

  • State/Grade 1: Mild—the bladder droops only a short way into the vagina
  • Stage/Grade 2: More severe—the bladder has sunk into the vagina far enough to reach the opening of the vagina
  • Stage/Grade 3: Most advanced—the bladder bulges out through the opening of the vagina

What Causes a Cystocele?

Cystoceles can be caused by one or many issues. Typically, these issues occur chronically or over time before causing a cystocele. These are the most common causes of cystoceles:

  • Achieving an advanced age
  • Being overweight
  • Experiencing childbirth or straining muscles during childbirth
  • Heavy lifting
  • Chronic coughing
  • Constipation or repeated straining during bowel movements
  • Previous pelvic surgery
  • Weakened muscles around the vagina caused by a lack of estrogen after menopause.

Keep in mind that cystoceles can occur in women who are younger or have not had children.

Cystocele Symptoms

If you experience the following symptoms, you may have a cystocele:

  • Feeling of pelvic heaviness or fullness
  • Bulging in the vagina that you can feel
  • Aching or sensation of pressure in the lower abdomen or pelvis
  • Lower back pain
  • Frequent urinary tract infections
  • Urge to urinate often or urgently
  • Leakage of urine
  • Incomplete emptying of the bladder
  • Constipation
  • Needing to push organs back up into the vagina to empty the bladder or have a bowel movement
  • Pain during sex
  • Problems putting in tampons or vaginal applicators 
  • Pelvic pressure that gets worse with standing, lifting or coughing as the day goes on

Cystocele Risk Factors and Diagnosis

Experiencing pregnancy and childbirth increase a woman’s chances of developing a cystocele. Additionally, a hysterectomy puts a woman at greater risk. Other risk factors for cystocele include aging, genetics and obesity. To accurately diagnose a cystocele, your provider at Coyle Institute will review your medical history and perform a physical and pelvic exam. Other tests may include:

  • Urodynamics
  • Cystoscopy
  • Urine tests 
  • Bladder scans
  • MRI

Cystocele Treatment Options

When treating a cystocele, lifestyle factors are extremely important. Your provider at Coyle Institute may recommend changes such as eating healthier, treating your chronic cough or avoiding lifting heavy weights. Additionally, Kegel exercises will help to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. A pessary may be suggested to further support the bladder and other pelvic organs. For more severe cystocele cases, surgery may be required to resolve the issue permanently. The diVa® vaginal laser therapy can also be a treatment option for women with a mild cystocele. 

Life After Cystocele Treatment

After repairing a cystocele, maintenance becomes a top priority to prevent a cystocele or other vaginal issues from returning. A great way to maintain cystocele repair results is bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) or diVa® vaginal laser therapy. BHRT will promote the ideal hormone balance required to prevent vaginal deterioration due to lack of lubrication and sagging. Laser rejuvenation with diVa® similarly promotes optimal lubrication and a renewal of skin cells in the vaginal area.

If you are experiencing symptoms of a cystocele, it is important to be diagnosed and treated. Call us today to schedule your appointment at 850-637-8258.