Overactive bladder (OAB) is an umbrella term for a list of urinary symptoms. The most common of these is the sudden urge to have to urinate, or the urge to urinate several times a day, including the nighttime, making it difficult to sleep.
OAB is caused by faulty neurological signals. Typically, as the bladder fills, your brain sends a signal to you that it is time to urinate. For those with an overactive bladder, bladder muscles contract because they have received a signal to do so, even if there is nothing to empty.
An overactive bladder is not the same thing as urinary incontinence, but an overactive bladder can lead to urinary incontinence and negatively affect your life, which is why it is crucial to know the signs of an overactive bladder and work with a doctor to treat it if you think you might have it. Once you know the signs, you can consult your doctor and begin treatment — if needed — right away.
Signs of OAB
The most common sign of OAB is having the sudden urge to urinate. You might feel that if you don’t go immediately, you’ll be unable to hold it in. Some are able to hold it, while others have more difficulty doing so (this is called urinary incontinence). These urges could be frequent or infrequent.
OAB affects more than just the waking hours, too. Many people with OAB lose sleep because of their frequent urges to urinate at night. This is called nocturia and it can negatively impact the lives of those who suffer from it because they rarely get a good night’s sleep.
Another symptom of OAB is the frequency of bladder voiding. It’s common for people dealing with OAB to urinate six to eight times per day. If you urinate more than that, you might want to consult your doctor regarding OAB. People with OAB can urinate up to 30 times a day.
Causes of OAB in Women
There are many potential causes of OAB. Women who have suffered a stroke, have Multiple Sclerosis (MS), or have Parkinson’s disease are all at higher risk. Urinary tract infections, certain medications, and excessive alcohol and caffeine consumption can all increase the risk, too. In fact, drinking too much liquid in general, even if not alcoholic or caffeinated, puts a person at risk.
Talking to Your Doctor About OAB
If you think you are experiencing OAB, make an appointment with your doctor. OAB can be an embarrassing issue that affects your life in several negative ways. When you visit with your doctor, here’s what you can expect:
- A physical exam and medical history survey
- A bladder stress test
- A postvoid residual volume test to see if there is still urine in the bladder after bladder voiding
- Tests to measure for obstruction
- Tests to rule out other ailments that may be similar to OAB
It can feel overwhelming and embarrassing to talk about OAB, but once your doctor has performed the necessary exams and has run the necessary tests, they’ll be able to discuss your treatment options with you — which will help you take your life back.
Treatments for OAB
Your doctor will help you come up with a detailed plan for how to get control of your OAB. They might ask you to keep a daily log of things such as your fluid intake, how many times you urinate, and the incidents surrounding accidents (if you have them).
The most common treatments for OAB are:
- Behavioral changes.The most common treatments for OAB involve lifestyle changes. Kegels are an often-recommended exercise that will strengthen your pelvic floor, giving you more control over your bladder. It is also recommended that you schedule bathroom breaks to make sure you are bladder voiding regularly. Some opt to practice what’s known as “overactive bladderdouble voiding” to make sure that their bladder is empty. This is the practice of urinating twice every time you use the bathroom to make sure that your bladder is completely empty.
- Medication.Medications that help the bladder relax can greatly reduce the number of involuntary bladder contractions you have. Another option is Botox injections, which ultimately achieve the same thing.
- Surgery.While surgery is a rare treatment for OAB, your doctor might suggest this to repair or strengthen your pelvic floor if your symptoms are bad enough.
One thing to keep in mind is that there are no overactive bladder treatment guidelines. As long as you’re honest and open with your doctor, you can feel confident that you will soon be equipped with the best treatment for you.
If you have more questions or would like to schedule an appointment to talk about your OAB symptoms, get in touch with us today!