Overactive Bladder Basics

Bladder Health, Daily Health Solutions, Healthy Aging, Multiple Sclerosis, Overactive Bladder/Incontinence
on February 13, 2012

Overactive bladder can strike at any age and does not appear to be gender-specific. While overactive bladder can generally be managed with lifestyle changes and/or medication, there are not many known cures. One of the greatest challenges with overactive bladder lies in determining the underlying cause, and then finding the appropriate treatment. Without treatment, overactive bladder can be very disruptive to your everyday life, interfering with sleep, work and social interactions.

Causes. According to the American Urologic Association, “By definition, the cause of OAB is unknown. However, identifiable underlying causes can include: drug side effects, nerve damage or neurological disease (e.g., multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, etc.) or stroke.” These are a handful of the most common underlying causes for overactive bladder, though so many other conditions can cause the bladder to react that it can be very difficult to pinpoint the exact problem.

Symptoms. The primary symptom of an overactive bladder is the sudden and frequent urge to urinate. These urges can come on so suddenly and so strong that some urine is lost as soon as it comes on. Urges will occur eight or more times within a 24-hour period with an overactive bladder, sometimes as frequently as every hour. Overactive bladder will also interrupt your sleep multiple times a night — at least twice during your normal sleep cycle in order to fit the definition, but possibly much more frequently.

Treatment. You can make several lifestyle changes that may help manage the embarrassing side effects of having an overactive bladder. Your doctor may recommend that you do Kegel exercises every day in order to strengthen the muscles responsible for holding in urine during strong urges. Fluids may be consumed in measured amounts throughout the day and far less in the evenings before bedtime. You can also use several techniques designed to “train your bladder” in order to have more predictable urges. If none of these tactics are successful, your doctor may recommend prescription medications that will either relax the muscles in the bladder to reduce incontinence or block the nerve impulses that cause the sudden urges. In very extreme cases, surgery may be needed to increase the capacity of or to remove the bladder.