Overactive bladder: A treatable condition

I found this post on an internet support group, it was written, I assume by a woman, who called herself Mary and said that she suffers from overactive bladder:

“I sometimes have problems with leakage after I have gone to the bathroom, and within minutes feel like I have to go again! At other times I feel like I need to go but not much comes out. I’m up at least twice or more often throughout the night which is affecting my sleep. Help!”

According to the Urology Care Foundation, “Overactive bladder (OAB) isn’t a disease. It’s the name of a group of urinary symptoms. The most common symptom of OAB is a sudden urge to urinate that you can’t control. Some people will leak urine when they feel the urge. Having to go to the bathroom many times during the day and night is another symptom of OAB.”

It sounds like Mary knows what she’s talking about. She’s one of about 33 million Americans with OAB. UCF claims that 30 percent of men and 40 percent of women in the U.S. live with OAB symptoms.

OAB isn’t confined to the older population. One forum had a discussion between women and men in their early twenties. UCF states that OAB doesn’t just happen because you’re a woman; are a man with an enlarged prostate, or is caused by something you did.

They also stress that there are treatments for OAB that can help and that if you are experiencing similar symptoms you should talk to your medical provider.

“There are treatments that can help, even if your symptoms aren’t severe or if you don’t have urine leaks,” UCF says.

As you can imagine, OAB can negatively affect your life. Having to take many trips to the bathroom may make you inclined not to participate in everyday activities for fear of not finding a toilet when you need one. There are obvious effects of not having a good night’s sleep, including mood swings, depression and chronic fatigue. Plus, OAB can also affect your relationship with your spouse as one of the symptoms includes leaking urine during sexual intercourse.

“It’s amazing how the simple act of emptying your bladder can rule and even ruin your life,” Mary said.

So, how does it work? You know that your kidneys produce urine which in turn is stored in your bladder. The muscles in the lower part of your abdomen hold your bladder in place. When it isn’t full, it’s relaxed. Some say it looks like a deflated balloon. When nerve signals in your brain let you know that your bladder is getting full you need to urinate. If you’re normal you can delay urination for some time.

When you’re ready to urinate, your brain sends a signal for the bladder muscles to contract forcing the urine out through the urethra. The urethra has muscles called sphincters that keep the urine from leaking and then open when you’re ready to go.

“OAB can be caused by the nerve signals between your bladder and brain telling your bladder to empty even when it isn’t full. OAB can also be the result of your bladder muscles being too active. Then your bladder muscles contract to pass urine before your bladder is full, and that causes a sudden, strong need to urinate.” UCF says.

Some people claim they have fewer symptoms if they discontinue caffeine, carbonated or alcoholic beverages. Others have said that citrus fruit, tomatoes, spicy foods and chocolate can trigger OAB.

There are many, way too many to write about here, treatments available to you. Your healthcare provider may prescribe one of the many drugs on the market today and/or recommend doing Kegel exercises which strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. You may be referred to an urologist who specializes in diseases of the urinary tract.

Look at www.urologyhealth.org for tons of information about overactive bladder and other urinary tract issues.

I know it’s embarrassing, but you don’t have to suffer. Seek help.

Kathy Hubbard is a member of Bonner General Health Foundation Advisory Council. She can be reached at kathyleehubbard@yahoo.com or 264-4029.