3 things to help ease your overactive bladder
If you get that “gotta-go” feeling more often than you think is normal, you are not alone.
According to the Urology Care Foundation (UCF), about 33 million people in the United States have overactive bladder (OAB). A urinary condition that causes intense urges to urinate, OAB can affect both men and women and is especially common among adults in their 40s and older, reports the UCF.
Overactive bladder occurs when your bladder, which stores your urine, is signaled by nerves to pass urine before your body needs to relieve itself.
“In a healthy urinary tract, your bladder remains calm when it’s full until you reach a bathroom and are ready to urinate,” says Dr. Sean George, a urogynecologist at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago. “When you are ready to urinate, the urethral sphincter muscles that obstruct urinary flow relax, the bladder contracts and normal urination occurs. But when overactive bladder is in play, your bladder contracts without warning before it is even full, leading to sudden urges to urinate and oftentimes associated urinary incontinence.”
While the most obvious sign of OAB is a frequent strong urge to urinate, Dr. George says there are other symptoms to be on the lookout for as well:
- Urinating frequently, or more than eight times in 24 hours
- Waking up in the middle of the night to urinate
- Leaking urine, also called urgency incontinence, or releasing small amounts of urine after feeling the sudden urge to go
If you think you may have OAB, talk to your doctor. He or she may review your family history, conduct a physical exam and collect a urine sample to check for infection before prescribing a course of action.
According to Dr. George, some common treatments for OAB can include:
- Lifestyle changes, or behavioral therapy. In some cases, overactive bladder can be triggered by consuming bladder-irritating foods and beverages, such as caffeine, spicy foods and alcohol. “If you are suffering from OAB, changing your diet may reduce your symptoms,” Dr. George says. “Additionally, scheduling your bathroom visits or doing pelvic exercises to train your bladder muscles may also help.”
- Medications. If lifestyle changes don’t help or only relieve some of your symptoms, your doctor may prescribe a gel, adhesive patch or oral tablet to discourage your bladder muscles from contracting when your bladder isn’t full.
- Botox injections. Dr. George says, injections of botulinum toxin, or Botox, can help prevent your bladder from contracting when it isn’t supposed to. Approved by the FDA in January 2013, the Botox injections relax your bladder, allowing it to store more urine. “More room in your bladder for urine can mean fewer trips to the bathroom throughout the day,” he adds.
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