Living with Overactive Bladder: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment
Discussing our bladders can be a sensitive subject. Bladder health affects everyone, and while it can be a tough subject to talk about, you are not alone if you experience an overactive bladder. Nearly 30% of men and 40% of women experience symptoms of an overactive bladder, or OAB, and these symptoms become more prominent as we age. The good news is that most of the time, OAB symptoms are treatable or manageable.
What is Overactive Bladder (OAB)?
OAB is the term used to describe different urinary symptoms and conditions. OAB is not a disease, and there are many different causes and symptoms of OAB. Some of the most common symptoms are:
- Feel a sudden urge to urinate that is hard to control
- Experience urine leakage (incontinence)
- Urinate more than 8 times a day
- Wake up more than once during the night to urinate
What Causes OAB?
Just as there are many different symptoms of OAB, there are many different causes of it as well. Some of the most common causes of OAB are:
- Weak pelvic muscles
- Enlarged prostate in men
- Low estrogen in women
Because there is no one cause for OAB, it is important to talk to your doctor about any issues or problems you may be experiencing.
Talking to Your Doctor About OAB
Your doctor cares about you and wants you to live your healthiest and happiest lifestyle. If you suffer from OAB, it can affect more than just your bladder. You may become withdrawn and avoid social gatherings or leaving the house because of fear of not being near a bathroom. Be open with your doctor about any and all symptoms you are having. Your doctor will likely have you keep a bladder journal for a couple of weeks where you will write down things like:
- The time of day you have to urinate
- How often you have to urinate
- How much urine you pass
- Urine leaks
- Any food or drink you consume before urination
A minimum of three days is suggested for a bladder journal, but you may be asked to keep one for up to a week.
Treatments for OAB
Depending on the cause of OAB, different treatments may be prescribed by your doctor. Your doctor will likely ask you to make lifestyle changes to start treating your OAB. Some common lifestyle changes include:
- Limiting food and drink that irritate the bladder such as caffeine, tea, alcohol, tomato-based food and citrus
- Following a bathroom schedule where you go to the bathroom as set times instead of when you first feel the urge
- Pelvic strengthening exercises to train your bladder muscles
If these changes do not work, your doctor may prescribe you medicine. These prescriptions can relax the bladder muscles and help prevent the muscles from contracting when not full. They are available in pill, gel or patch form. If none of these options are successful, your doctor may suggest surgery. All surgeries come with risks, and all other options should be tried before surgery.
Living With OAB
Don’t let OAB interfere with your life. There is nothing embarrassing about experiencing OAB, and you do not have to suffer in silence. If you are experiencing any symptoms of OAB, make an appointment to speak with your doctor about it. A visit to your doctor is the first step to taking control of your bladder health and living your healthiest, happiest, most independent lifestyle.
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