Overactive Bladder – Causes And Treatments
Each day, you have a million different thoughts run through your head.
Has your bladder control and the number of times you urinate each day ever been one of those things? Probably not, unless of course you are among the many who routinely experience bladder control problems, such as an overactive bladder.
As one of the most surprisingly widespread disorders among the population, Overactive Bladder, commonly referred to as OAB, is a medical condition which is characterized by the incapability of the bladder to hold urine normally. One of the most common symptoms of OAB is leaking urine, or to put into medical terms, urinary incontinence.
Believe it or not, there are millions of people suffering from bladder-related difficulties, and you're highly mistaken if you think that you are alone. According to statistics, over 33 million people suffer from a case of Overactive Bladder in the United States alone!
In many cases, an overactive bladder does not signify an underlying health problem. In other cases, though, it is a side-effect or result of medications for many serious and terminal diseases, from Parkinson's Disease and Multiple Sclerosis (MS) to kidney diseases and diabetes. OAB has also been known to occur after childbirth and surgery.
How Much Urination Is Too Much?
Usually, those who suffer from OAB urinate more than eight times during the day, and more than once overnight.
Needless to say, if you are experiencing any Overactive Bladder symptoms, you must deal with them as soon as possible. If diagnosed in its earlier stages, the unwanted symptoms can be reduced or even completely eradicated with the help of treatment and medications.
Although it will take some amount of time and effort, there are many natural, feasible ways in which you can overcome an overactive bladder.
An Overview Of Overactive Bladder And Its Symptoms
Basically, Overactive Bladder is characterized by a set of symptoms which occur due to sudden contractions of muscles in the wall of the bladder. Those suffering from an overactive bladder find their bladder function controlling muscles acting involuntarily – which often results in loss of bladder control and urinary incontinence.
The amount of urine leakage varies from person-to-person, ranging from as little as a few drops to as many as a couple of ounces. The reasons for incontinence also vary, and can range from a simple case of excess daily consumption of caffeinated beverages to a serious medical condition.
About 40-70 % of incontinence cases are the result of an overactive bladder. The term incontinence refers to the lack of control over excretory activities such as defecation and urination. If you have an overactive bladder, you may experience loss of control over your ability to withhold urination as well as urinary incontinence.
Overactive Bladders are classified as two types – dry and wet. While the former is characterized by a sudden, urgent need to urinate several times during the day, the latter, which is also called urge incontinence, refers to sudden bladder leakage.
Both of these types may occur without any underlying health condition. According to statistics, over 60% of OAB patients have dry OAB, while 40% have wet OAB.
Occurring on an individual case basis, the most common symptoms of an overactive bladder are:
- The urgent need to urinate
- Leakage of urine
- Frequent bathroom trips
Needless to say, these symptoms are of great inconvenience to any person, both during their waking and sleeping hours. Having no knowledge of urine leakage, along with the constant need to go to the bathroom, can cause major stress. If you are among the many suffering from an overactive bladder, you are well-aware of the importance of being near a bathroom at all times.
Any person who suffers from OAB generally feels the need to urinate 8 or more times within a 24-hour period. This may even happen when their fluid intake is low.
Causes And Risk Factors Of Overactive Bladder
The following are some of the most common risk factors and causes that are associated with Overactive Bladder cases:
OAB occurs in both men and women of all ages, but is more common among the elderly population. According to statistics, less than 10% of people below the age of 50 suffer from OAB, with the prevalence increasing to up to 20-30% in those above the age of 60.
Any bladder that is normal and healthy will be able to hold urine until it gets full and will only empty itself when the relevant nerves signal. But when there is nerve damage within the body, the muscles that surround the urethra (the tube through which urine goes out of your bladder) may become loose, which in turn causes incontinence.
Nerve damage can occur due to a variety of reasons, some of which include:
- Back or pelvis surgery
- Herniated disc
- Multiple sclerosis
- Weak pelvic muscles
- Parkinson’s disease
Weak Pelvic Floor
Weak pelvic floor muscles often lead to issues in bladder control. The pelvic floor muscles act like a sling, which holds up the uterus (in the case of women) and bladder (both men and women).
Among women, things like pregnancy and childbirth may lead to stretching and subsequent weakening of the muscles of the pelvic floor, which in turn may make the bladder sag out of place. This further leads to stretching out of the opening of the urethra, which may lead to a leakage of urine.
When the female body goes through menopause, the body faces many changes, such as loss of estrogen. That, combined with aging, often leads to increased bladder issues.
Obesity Or Extra Weight
Those extra pounds may very well be the reason for your urine leaks and OAB. After all, they do put extra pressure on the bladder.
Water pills or diuretics, which are often used to treat high blood pressure, enable your body to get rid of salt and water at a faster rate through your urine. This may result in the bladder also filling up faster, which may lead to leakage.
Other Causes of Over Action Bladder
- Stones in the bladder or kidney
- Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)
- Urethral strictures
- Benign Prostatic Enlargement (BPH)
- Bladder tumors
Additionally, there are also cases where there is no apparent cause of the Overactive Bladder condition. This is called Idiopathic Overactive Bladder.
Overactive Bladder Vs. Urinary Incontinence
While Overactive Bladder and Urinary Incontinence may feel the same, they are very different from each other.
Characteristics Of An Overactive Bladder
- Inability of the bladder to hold urine normally.
- A sudden urge to urinate, in which an accident almost always occurs.
- Urgency to urinate, while being unable to postpone urination.
- OAB is a chronic problem, with ongoing symptoms.
- Pelvic floor muscle exercises are often required to reduce symptoms.
- Regular consumption of large quantities of caffeine and alcohol often contribute to OAB.
- OAB may underlie several serious health conditions, such as diabetes, stroke, multiple sclerosis (MS), Parkinson’s disease, and kidney diseases.
Characteristics of Urinary Incontinence
- Complete loss of bladder control.
- It is not a condition, but a symptom that underlies OAB.
- Is often the result of weakening or loss of control over the urinary sphincter.
- Can itself underlie something very simple, such as an isolated occasion when you had too much fluid consumption.
- May be a symptom of a UTI, if there is blood in the urine and/or a burning sensation during urination.
Conventional Treatment Of Overactive Bladder
Conventional treatment for overactive bladder includes prescription medications, antimuscarinic drugs, which help calm the bladder. The 7 most common drugs that are used to treat overactive bladders are:
- Darifenacin (Enablex)
- Fesoterodine (Toviaz)
- Mirabegron (Myrbetriq)
- Oxybutynin (Ditropan XL, a skin patch called Oxytrol, a topical gel called Gelnique, and generic)
- Solifenacin (Vesicare)
- Tolterodine (Detrol and generic, Detrol LA)
- Trospium (Sanctura, Sanctura XR and generic)
When these drugs were analyzed, it was found that virtually all of these medications are about the same. So where does the difference lie? Apart from differences in cost, the medications vary in side effects, ranging from dry mouth and drowsiness to constipation, dizziness, and blurry vision. This is the reason why even the most conventional of doctors advise to try lifestyle modifications before turning to medications.
In serious cases of OAB, the doctor often resorts to injecting botulinum toxin (BOTOX) to calm down the bladder muscles. That said, even this treatment has several side effects such as urinary retention, Urinary Tract Infection, fatigue, insomnia, and hematuria (blood in the urine).
Eight Ways To Treat An Overactive Bladder Naturally
1. Perform Kegel Exercises
If the main reason behind your OAB is a weak pelvic floor, you can certainly benefit from performing kegel exercises. Beneficial for both men and women, these exercises can be done anytime and anywhere. When performed regularly, they help strengthen the pelvic floor, which really helps an overactive bladder.
Melody Denson, MD, a board-certified urologist of the Urology Team in Austin, Texas, has personally recommended pelvic floor exercises to help treat OAB, saying that they can be very instrumental in triggering the reflex mechanism to help relax the bladder.
She further added that performing a kegel right before going to the bathroom when you feel the urge to urinate, helps keep bladder spasms under control, which in turns helps you hold your urine till you get there.”
2. Keep Away From Dietary Triggers
Another way to keep OAB under control is to avoid foods that contribute the condition:
- Citrus fruits and juices
- Caffeinated foods and beverages
- Carbonated beverages such as soda
- Artificial sweeteners
- Rich and spicy foods
- Milk and milk products
- Foods containing high amounts of sugar (In this regard, also keep track of your honey consumption.)
- Medications such as diuretics, which are known to greatly contribute to acute incontinence, especially among the elderly, should also be avoided.
- Yet another (surprising) thing that you must avoid is cranberry juice. While cranberry juice actually helps improve bladder health, it acts as an irritant for those suffering from OAB.
3. Monitor Your Fluid Intake
It’s essential to drink enough water each day to avoid dehydration. However, if you are drinking too many liquids right before bed, you are more likely to need to empty your bladder during the night. Many people with OAB suffer from nocturia, which is the need to urinate many times during the night, and is a great disruptor to a good night’s sleep.
Furthermore, sound sleepers who may not get out of bed very fast or get up at all may end up wetting the bed unintentionally. In order to avoid this from happening, it is therefore ideal to limit fluid intake before bedtime, making the limit to take fluids until 5-6 pm at the latest.
Double-voiding is yet another way to help with OAB symptoms, particularly those that occur during the night. The trick is to urinate twice – instead of once, before you go to bed. Dr.
Denson recommends her patients to follow this routine – go to the bathroom, brush your teeth, then continue with your bedtime routine. Just before you are about to lie down to sleep, try to urinate, even if you don't feel like it, and squeeze out as much urine as you can.
5. Schedule Your Trips to the Bathroom
In order to retrain your bladder better, you can keep a daily diary that records your urinary urges, trips to the bathroom, and any urine leakage that may occur. Once you figure out the pattern of your urination and the number of bathroom trips you make, you can then start scheduling your trips, by adding on about 15 minutes to the normally expected time.
Make sure you stick to the scheduled times, even when you don’t have to visit the bathroom. With the passage of time, you can increase the amount of time that passes between each bathroom trip.
6. Try to Delay Urination
This is yet another very effective bladder retraining technique. While it does not sound pleasant, it can be very effective. The trick is to hold out for at least a few minutes when you feel the urge to urinate. Then proceed to increase this “holding time” gradually. Gradually you will find that you can go up to three to four hours before visiting the bathroom.
If at some point, you feel that you cannot hold on for long, use the bathroom, but proceed to stick to the next scheduled urination time. One way to make the holding time easier is the use of relaxation techniques like deep breathing.
According to a study that was published in the British Journal of Urology, acupuncture functions as a fantastic natural treatment option for OAB. In a study conducted on some 20 subjects, each of whom received acupuncture treatment once a week for 10 weeks’ duration, with each treatment session being 30 minutes long and targeting the acupuncture points SP6, CV4 (RN4) and KI3, it was found that approximately 77% of patients suffering from idiopathic detrusor instability (IDI) were symptomatically cured.
As a common reason for lower urinary tract storage symptoms such as frequency, urge incontinence, and urgency, IDI plays a vital role in OAB.
8. Stop Smoking
There are already more than enough reasons for this, and here's another one. Not only does smoking irritate the bladder, it also increases the risk of contracting bladder cancer.
Furthermore, cigarette smoking also leads to coughing spasms, which increase stress incontinence problems. Stress urinary incontinence takes place when the bladder leaks urine during any kind of exerting physical activity, such as lifting heavy things or coughing. If you have OAB and are still smoking, you must get rid of the habit right away.
Precautions And Proper Diagnosis
For proper diagnosis of any possible disease that you may have, it is important that you know everything about the syndrome and its symptoms. For instance, many OAB symptoms often overlap with other health conditions such as Urinary Tract Infection (UTI), enlarged prostate, and bladder cancer. On the other hand, several symptoms are mistaken to be that of OAB, such as seeing blood in your urine.
Both a UTI and an OAB are characterized by a sudden and frequent need to urinate. So how can one discriminate between the two urinary health issues? A UTI, in addition to its OAB-like symptoms, has certain additional symptoms, such discomfort while urinating. Furthermore, while OAB symptoms are continuous in nature, those of UTI symptoms are sudden and also often include a fever.
Yet another urinary health issue is overflow incontinence, which is characterized by the involuntary release of urine from an overfull urinary bladder when there is no urge to urinate. The condition has no association with OAB, and generally occurs in people who get a blockage in their bladder outlet, which can take place due to narrowing of the urethra, benign prostatic hyperplasia, or prostate cancer.
Overflow incontinence also happens when the muscle which removes the urine from the bladder is too weak to empty the bladder normally.
In case you are experiencing any changes in your urination habits and/or your urine, you must see a doctor right away, who will diagnose your condition (if you have one) properly. Remember, a urinary health problem, if properly diagnosed in its early stages, can be significantly reduced, if not completely eliminated, with the right treatment.
Overactive Bladder Final Words
Needless to say, having an overactive bladder is a painful predicament, which will restrict your movements to the nearest bathroom. With the help of the aforementioned natural tips, you can regain control of both your bladder and your life.
While chances of having an overactive bladder become higher the older you get, that does not mean that it is bound to happen and that you will have to deal with it for the rest of your life. While it may be difficult, OAB symptoms can be improved significantly, if not entirely eliminated, should you be willing enough to put in the extra effort required for the natural treatments.
Never ignore your OAB symptoms. Bear in mind, treating symptoms early can reduce or even eliminate early-stage unwanted OAB symptoms.