Overactive bladder, or OAB, is a condition that many of us feel uncomfortable talking about. Though you may feel like you are the only one experiencing OAB symptoms, it is actually a very common condition. In fact, 33 million Americans have been diagnosed with this condition, and there are likely many more who remain undiagnosed because they are too embarrassed to seek medical assistance, or they just don’t think there is anything they can do about it. However, learning about OAB can be empowering, and can allow you to regain control over your overactive bladder.
What are the Symptoms of Overactive Bladder?
Overactive bladder is not a disease, rather, it’s the name used to describe a group of bothersome urinary symptoms. These symptoms fall into several categories:
Sense of Urgency
The most common symptom of OAB is the strong, sudden, uncontrollable need to urinate. This physical urge is typically accompanied by the mental anxiety that goes with not knowing if you will make it to a bathroom in time. People with this symptom can feel limited in their activities, as they don’t ever want to be far away from a bathroom.
Incontinence is the word which describes when urine leaks. There are several types of urinary incontinence. One type of incontinence is when the leaking happens after a sudden, uncontrollable sense of urgency. Another type, called stress incontinence, happens in women when they sneeze, cough or laugh, or during a physical activity. This symptom of OAB can be embarrassing, and people who have this symptom may also try to limit activities to avoid “accidents.”
Waking Up at Night Because You Have to “Go”
Another symptom of OAB is waking multiple times during the night to go to the bathroom. This symptom gets in the way of a good night’s sleep. Of course, the ramifications of not getting the sleep that you need can carry over into the day time when you are too overtired for your daily activities.
What are the Treatments of Overactive Bladder?
If you are living with OAB symptoms and under the assumption that is just something that you need to put up with, do not despair! There are several treatments for overactive bladder. Often, the first treatment to be considered is behavioral therapy. Behavior therapy involves making behavioral, or lifestyle changes. These changes may include changes to your diet, such as minimizing caffeine, alcohol or spicy foods, which can contribute to OAB symptoms. Other lifestyle changes include keeping a “bladder diary” in order to track your urinary habits, and then schedule trips to the bathroom accordingly. “Quick flick” Kegel exercises, which can help to relax the bladder muscles, is another behavioral change that may reduce the symptoms of OAB.
If behavior therapy does not make enough of an impact to reduce the symptoms of overactive bladder, then there are several medications available which can help to relax the bladder muscle and stop it from contracting at the wrong times. Other options for treatment of OAB symptoms include neuromodulation therapy, in which electrical impulses are used to change how the nerves work, or botox injections, which may help to keep the bladder from contracting too often.
The best approach to dealing with your OAB symptoms is to consult a medical professional. There is no need to let an overactive bladder become an inconvenience, an embarrassment, or a barrier that keeps you from doing the activities that you enjoy. Your urologist will be able to determine the right course of treatment to help you overcome this condition and minimize the impact of OAB symptoms on your daily life.