Tips for Taming an Overactive Bladder
Grace Weatherby
/ Categories: WELLNESS, 2024

Tips for Taming an Overactive Bladder

We’ve all experienced the panic that ensues when you wait too long to go to the bathroom. But for more than 15% of men and 45% of women in the U.S., that feeling of panic and the immediate need to pee is a part of daily life. Very often, the urge is accompanied by the loss of urine.

Known as urge incontinence, the condition frequently occurs at night but can be triggered at any hour of by certain cues such as hearing running water or upon opening the door to your home.

In many cases, urge incontinence is caused by an overactive bladder (OAB). OAB is a condition that causes the muscles in your bladder to randomly squeeze, creating the sensation that your bladder is full and needs to be emptied. The urge to urinate can be quite frequent and strong, often disrupting sleep. The squeezing also causes the muscles in your urethra (the tube that transports urine from your bladder to out of your body) to relax, allowing urine to leak out.

The good news is that urge incontinence is often caused by a minor medical condition, such as infection which can be treated with antibiotics. However, there are other more serious potential causes which make getting an accurate diagnosis important.  

Diagnosing OAB involves reviewing your symptoms and medical history, an exam, and providing a urine sample. You’ll also be asked to keep a “bladder diary” for a few days in which you’ll note how often you urinate, the amount you produce, and any leakage episodes. In some cases, additional test may be performed to determine how well your bladder is or isn’t emptying. 

Treatment for your OAB will be determined by what your doctor learns through the exam and tests.

Three common options include:

  1. Bladder Training: Training your bladder to hold urine longer by gradually increasing the time between bathroom visits. It might take some time, but with patience and consistency, you can improve your bladder control.
  2. Pelvic Floor Exercises: Strengthening your pelvic floor muscles through exercises like Kegels can help improve bladder control and reduce symptoms of OAB.
  3. Medication: In some cases, your healthcare provider may prescribe medication to help calm an overactive bladder and reduce symptoms.

In addition, there are things you can do on your own to reclaim control over your bladder.

For example, stress can exacerbate OAB symptoms, so finding healthy ways to manage stress, such as meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises, can be beneficial.

You may also want to avoid certain foods and beverages that can irritate the bladder and worsen OAB symptoms. Things like caffeine, artificial sweeteners, and sodas can all increase bladder sensitivity and contribute to OAB.

Managing your fluid intake can also be helpful. While it might seem counterintuitive, staying hydrated is essential for overall bladder health. Just be mindful of how much and what you're drinking, and limit fluid intake 4-6 hours before bed

Again, having OAB doesn’t mean you have to stop doing the things you love. With the right management strategies in place, you can continue to live an active and fulfilling life.

 

OAB Risk Factors
– While urge incontinence effects both men and women, it occurs with much greater frequency in women. Other common risk factors include:
– Diabetes
– Menopause
– Certain medications, most notably those for high blood pressure and depression
– Obesity
– Kidney stones
– Pelvic surgery, including hysterectomies
– Smoking
– Pregnancy and childbirth
– Prostate issues
– Urinary tract infections
– Certain neurological disorders, including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and multiple sclerosis

 

Anthony Donaldson, MD, is a board-certified urologist at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center. 

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2022

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