Nearly 33 million Americans suffer from overactive bladder (OAB), a chronic condition that causes a frequent and uncontrollable urge to urinate. Many patients with OAB feel too embarrassed about their condition to seek treatment, choosing instead to suffer in silence.
OAB isn’t something to be ashamed of and getting treatment can improve your life and your bathroom breaks. To help you start the conversation with your doctor, here are five things to know about an overactive bladder.
It’s caused by involuntary bladder contractions.
When a healthy bladder gets full, the brain sends a signal for it to contract (the source of your urge to urinate). If you have OAB, your bladder contracts involuntarily – even if it isn’t full. This is what creates that urgent need to urinate that just can’t wait, even if you just went.
Doctors aren’t always sure what causes OAB. Common causes include urinary tract infections, hormonal changes, prostate problems, certain medications, and pelvic muscle weakness.
It’s more common in women than in men.
More than 40% of older women struggle with OAB symptoms. This could be due to hormonal changes that occur during menopause, or it may be because women are more comfortable reporting OAB symptoms to their doctor. However, men can also suffer from OAB – and nearly 30% of them do.
Other patients at risk include those with neurological conditions or diseases that affect the brain and spinal cord such as multiple sclerosis (MS) or stroke.
It’s not a “normal” part of aging.
Many people believe excessive urination is a normal part of getting older, but this is a dangerous myth. While overactive bladder is more common in older patients, that’s because many of the underlying causes – like an enlarged prostate or hormonal changes due to menopause – are more common as we age. No matter your age, an overactive bladder is a chronic health problem that requires a trip to your doctor.
You may not have incontinence.
Most people associate overactive bladder with incontinence, or when urine leaks from the body involuntarily. While OAB can cause incontinence, it doesn’t always. The most common signs of overactive bladder are frequent urination (eight or more times in 24 hours), nocturia (waking two or more times per night to urinate), and a sudden urge to urinate that you can’t control – you gotta’ go now.
There are treatment options.
Talking to your doctor about your overactive bladder may feel hard, but living with this condition is certainly harder. The good news is, there are treatment options that can help manage your overactive bladder and improve your quality of life. They include:
- Lifestyle changes like monitoring your fluid intake, avoiding certain foods and drinks, taking timed bathroom breaks, or doing bladder exercises.
- Intermittent Catheterization to completely empty the bladder
- Medications to relax the bladder muscles
- Injections of Botox into the bladder
- Nerve Stimulation to regulate signals between the brain and bladder