Have you ever found yourself rushing to the bathroom because of an urgent and intense urge to pee? If this sounds familiar, you might be dealing with an overactive bladder (OAB).
Typically, the bladder muscle remains relaxed, allowing it to store urine comfortably. Then, when it is time to expel urine, the bladder contracts. With OAB, the bladder muscle contracts involuntarily, even when the bladder is not full. The result is an abrupt and often uncontrollable need to urinate.
In addition, some people may have increased nerve sensitivity or dysfunction in how the bladder senses urine, causing premature sensations of bladder fullness and urgency. While OAB can impact your quality of life, these sudden and inconvenient symptoms aren’t as rare as you might think.
OAB is characterized by a recurrent and unpredictable urge to urinate, which is often difficult to control. This can mean:
- Frequent trips to the bathroom throughout the day
- Waking up multiple times during the night to urinate
- Unintentional urine loss, known as urgency incontinence
What Causes OAB?
OAB tends to become more common as you age. However, it is not a normal part of aging. It can be associated with medical issues like neurological conditions or diabetes, which exacerbate bladder function problems. Other factors include:
- Hormonal changes during menopause
- Urinary tract infections
- Excessive caffeine intake
- Alcohol consumption
- Certain medications
To diagnose OAB, your doctor will perform a thorough medical history evaluation, physical examination, and diagnostic testing to rule out other causes.
Your doctor will ask about the frequency and urgency of urinating and any incidents of incontinence. You may need to keep a bladder diary for several days to record things like fluid intake and episodes of urgency. Your doctor may also do a laboratory workup to test your urine for infections, blood, or other abnormalities.
Bladder function tests like measuring urine left in the bladder, calculating urine flow rate, and assessing bladder pressure can also help with the assessment.
Is OAB Treatable?
Yes! If OAB is affecting your quality of life, there are treatment options to alleviate symptoms.
Simple changes in daily habits can significantly improve OAB, such as:
- Managing fluid intake
- Dietary changes to avoid bladder irritants like alcohol and caffeine
- Scheduling bathroom visits
- Losing weight
- Exercising the pelvic floor
You may be prescribed medication that relaxes your bladder or controls muscle spasms. Although these don’t cure OAB, they may help manage the symptoms. Options include:
- Anticholinergic drugs like oxybutynin
- Beta-3 adrenergic medications like mirabegron
Botulinum toxin injections into the bladder can reduce urgency and urine leakage and are often effective for those who haven’t found relief with conventional treatments.
These methods target the nerve impulses that control bladder function. Modifying these impulses can help improve communication between the bladder and the brain. This can effectively alleviate OAB symptoms and improve bladder control, offering a valuable alternative for individuals seeking relief from OAB when traditional treatments are not effective or suitable.
Take Control of Your OAB
OAB might seem challenging, but understanding it is the first step towards managing it effectively. With various treatment options available, you don’t have to let OAB control your life.
If you suspect you have OAB, make an appointment with one of our specialists today for a proper diagnosis and to discuss the best treatment plan for you!