Overactive Bladder (OAB)


If you find yourself rushing to the bathroom too often or experiencing sudden urges to pee, you may be suffering from Overactive Bladder (OAB). OAB is a common condition that affects millions of people of all ages, genders, and backgrounds.

OAB occurs when the bladder muscle contracts too frequently, causing a sudden and uncontrollable urge to urinate. This can lead to other symptoms such as frequent urination, urinary leakage or incontinence, and even depression or anxiety due to the impact it has on a person’s quality of life.

With the right treatment plan and lifestyle adjustments, OAB symptoms can be effectively managed, allowing individuals to regain control over their bladder and their lives.

What is Overactive Bladder (OAB)?

Overactive Bladder, commonly called OAB, is a medical condition characterised by sudden and involuntary contractions of the bladder muscles, causing an urgent need to urinate frequently.

overactive bladder in women
Photo Credit: pikisuperstar

The bladder is a muscular sac in the pelvis that stores urine until it is ready to be expelled. In people with OAB, the bladder muscles may contract uncontrollably, even when the bladder is not full, resulting in sudden urges to urinate frequently.

Causes of Overactive Bladder

The exact causes of OAB are not clear, but the following factors may contribute to its development:

  • Age-related changes in bladder function
  • Bladder infection or irritation
  • Neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis
  • Bladder abnormalities, such as tumors or stones
  • Medications that increase urine production or irritate the bladder

In some cases, OAB may occur without an underlying cause.

Relationship between Bladder Muscle and Capacity

The bladder muscle plays a crucial role in OAB. When the bladder is full, the muscles relax, allowing the bladder to hold more urine. When it’s time to urinate, the brain sends a signal to the bladder muscles to contract and expel urine from the body. In people with OAB, these contractions may occur involuntarily, even when the bladder is not full, leading to frequent urination and urinary urgency.

The capacity of the bladder also plays a role in OAB. The average adult bladder can hold up to 16 ounces (480 milliliters) of urine comfortably. However, people with OAB may experience the urge to urinate when the bladder is only partially full.

If you experience symptoms of OAB, seeking medical advice to determine the underlying cause and receive appropriate treatment is essential. You can improve your symptoms and regain control over your life with the right treatment plan and lifestyle adjustments.

Common Symptoms of Overactive Bladder

Overactive bladder (OAB) can cause a range of symptoms that can vary in intensity from person to person. The most common symptoms of OAB include:

  • Urinary urgency: A sudden, intense urge to urinate that may be difficult to control.
  • Urinary frequency: The need to urinate frequently, often more than eight times per day.
  • Urinary incontinence: Unintentional leakage of urine.

These symptoms can significantly impact a person’s quality of life, affecting their ability to work, travel, and socialize. They can also lead to anxiety and embarrassment, causing some people to avoid social situations altogether.

Urinary emergency can be one of the symptoms of overactive bladder
Photo Credit: jcomp

In addition to the above symptoms, some people with OAB may experience urinary leakage or incontinence during physical activities such as exercise, lifting, or bending. This is known as stress incontinence and is often related to weakened pelvic floor muscles.

Diagnosis of Overactive Bladder (OAB)

Diagnosing overactive bladder (OAB) typically involves a series of medical tests and evaluations. If you are experiencing symptoms of OAB, such as urinary urgency, urinary frequency, or urinary leakage, it is important to seek medical advice.

Medical History and Physical Exam

In the initial evaluation, your healthcare provider will likely conduct a medical history and physical exam. They will ask questions regarding your symptoms, medical history, and medications. They will also perform a physical exam, which may include a pelvic exam for women and a prostate exam for men.

Diagnostic Tests

Your healthcare provider may also recommend diagnostic tests to help confirm an OAB diagnosis. These tests may include:

  • Bladder Diary: Keeping a record of your fluid intake and urinary output can help identify patterns and triggers for your OAB symptoms.
  • Urodynamic Studies: These tests evaluate bladder function and the flow of urine and may include uroflowmetry, cystometry, and pressure flow studies.
  • Cystoscopy: This test involves using a small camera to examine the inside of the bladder for abnormalities.

Based on the results of these evaluations, your healthcare provider can determine whether you have OAB or another underlying condition causing your symptoms. From there, they can work with you to develop an individualized treatment plan.

Treatment Options for Overactive Bladder

seeking urologist's help can help with overactive bladder
Photo Credit: vector4stock

Overactive bladder (OAB) can be managed effectively with a range of treatment options. These may include:

  • Lifestyle changes can include reducing caffeine and alcohol consumption, avoiding bladder irritants such as spicy foods, and setting a schedule for toilet breaks.
  • Medications: Prescription medications, such as anticholinergics and beta-3 agonists, can help reduce OAB symptoms by relaxing the bladder muscle or increasing bladder capacity. Your healthcare professional can help determine which medication is best for you.
  • Bladder training exercises: These exercises involve working with a healthcare professional to increase the amount of time between toilet breaks gradually, and can help retrain the bladder to hold urine for longer periods of time.
  • Surgical interventions: In rare cases where other treatment options have not been effective, surgical interventions such as bladder augmentation or nerve stimulation may be considered.

It’s important to remember that treatment plans for OAB are individualized and will vary depending on the severity of symptoms, overall health, and personal preferences. Working with a healthcare professional is key to finding the most effective treatment plan for you.

Pelvic Floor Exercises for Overactive Bladder

One of the most effective ways to manage the symptoms of overactive bladder (OAB) is through pelvic floor exercises. The pelvic floor is a group of muscles that support the bladder and other pelvic organs. When these muscles are weak or become dysfunctional, it can lead to OAB symptoms such as urinary urgency, frequency, and leakage.

The Benefits of Pelvic Floor Exercises for OAB

Pelvic floor exercises, also known as Kegels, can help strengthen these muscles and improve bladder control. Research has shown that pelvic floor exercises can significantly reduce OAB symptoms and improve quality of life for those who suffer from this condition.

Pelvic floor exercises can help cope with overactive bladder OAB
Photo Credit: Freepik

In addition to improving bladder control, pelvic floor exercises can help with other issues contributing to OAB, such as constipation and urinary incontinence. They can also be beneficial for individuals with nerve damage or spinal cord injuries.

How to Do Pelvic Floor Exercises

Pelvic floor exercises involve contracting and relaxing the pelvic floor muscles. To do these exercises, follow these steps:

  1. Identify the pelvic floor muscles by stopping the flow of urine midstream or squeezing the muscles that keep you from passing gas.
  2. Tighten the pelvic floor muscles and hold for 5 seconds, then relax for 5 seconds.
  3. Repeat this cycle 10 times, 3 times a day.

It’s important to note that pelvic floor exercises may only work for some with OAB. In some cases, other treatments such as medication or surgery may be necessary. It’s always best to consult a healthcare professional to determine the best treatment plan for your needs.

Additional Tips for Pelvic Floor Exercises

  • Start with a small number of repetitions and gradually increase.
  • Avoid holding your breath or clenching your buttocks during the exercises.
  • Try doing pelvic floor exercises in different positions, such as lying down or sitting.
  • Be consistent with your exercises to see the best results.

Pelvic floor exercises can be a simple yet effective way to manage OAB symptoms and improve quality of life. By strengthening these muscles, individuals can regain control over their bladder and reduce the impact that OAB has on their daily activities.

Frequently Asked Questions about Overactive Bladder (OAB)

Difference between OAB and urge incontinence:

OAB is a syndrome with frequent and sudden urges to urinate, while urge incontinence is the involuntary leakage of urine that happens during a strong urge to urinate.

Difference between urge incontinence and urgency:

Urgency is the strong need to urinate, while urge incontinence is the leakage of urine that occurs with this urgent sensation.

Does overactive bladder cause urge incontinence?

An overactive bladder can cause urge incontinence due to sudden and uncontrollable urges leading to involuntary urine leakage.

Causes of urinary urgency and incontinence:

Possible causes include overactive bladder, urinary tract infections, neurological disorders, bladder obstruction, pelvic floor dysfunction, certain medications, caffeine/alcohol consumption, and underlying medical conditions. Seek professional evaluation for proper diagnosis and treatment.