Overactive Bladder, also called OAB in short is a condition when a person has to urinate frequently and when he/she is unable to hold the urge until he/she reaches the toilet. The person may have wake up multiple times during sleep to urinate which can affect him/her physically and mentally. If the frequent urination problem occurs during winter/cold season or occasionally, that may not be considered as an Overactive Bladder condition. Watching what fluids/liquids are being consumed and in what quantity should sort out the problem.
Overactive Bladder is a treatable condition. Before getting surgical treatment for Overactive bladder, your urologist will suggest some lifestyle changes including dietary changes, kegel exercise to strengthen your pelvic muscles, holding and training the bladder to urinate only at scheduled intervals etc.
What are the symptoms of Overactive Bladder?
- The most common symptom of OAB is the sudden urge to urinate and unable to control till you reach the toilet.
- Involuntary loss of urine that happens frequently
- Urinating more than 8 times in a day.
- Waking up multiple times at night during sleep.
If you are suffering from these symptoms and it’s been a while you are having them, you must visit a good urologist or a urogynecologist for evaluation and treatment.
How does bladder work in normal cases?
Bladder collects the urine that is filtered out by the kidneys and sent through the ureters. Once the bladder is full, it sends a signal to the brain that it has to be emptied. The brain then sends signals to the muscles around the bladder and the sphincter muscles around the urethra to compress and relax respectively. Once all the urine is out, brain tells the bladder muscles to relax and the sphincter muscle to tighten so that the urethra closes.
In people suffering from urinary incontinence problem, either the communication between the bladder and brain goes wrong or the communication between the brain and bladder muscles goes wrong. The improper coordination combined with weaker pelvic muscles leads to urinary incontinence.
What causes the involuntary bladder contractions?
- Neurological problems
- Urinary Tract Infections can also show symptoms similar to overactive bladder.
- Problems with bladder – presence of cancer tumors or stones. Stones do form in the bladder and they block the urinary exits making it difficult to completely empty the bladder. This can leave very small room for new urine to collect and the bladder again signals the brain to empty it, resulting in Overactive Bladder.
- Other factors that act as hindrances for emptying the bladder include – enlarged prostate, constipation or problems arising out of previous surgery in the pelvis region.
- Medications for certain ailments may also lead to frequent urination.
- Excessive consumption of caffeine and/or alcohol
- Age – with age, nerves weaken and also the functioning ability of the brain goes down. This can lead to improper coordination between pelvic muscles and the brain center.
How does an overactive bladder affect a person?
- The person will know that he/she is not physically alright. Frequent urination (while in the middle of work) can mentally affect the person. This can lead to stress and sometimes depression.
- Disturbed sleep – Not only the person will be deprived of good night sleep; the brain doesn’t get refreshed to take up the next day’s activities.
Diagnosing Overactive bladder (OAB)
If you have a family physician, he/she may redirect you to a urologist or a urogynecologist to fix the problem. Urologists and Urogynecologists deal with urinary tract and most of the problems that arise in the pelvis region including kidney stones, Urinary Tract Infections, Prostate problems, Fissure etc.
When the person presents himself/herself to the urologist, the urologist may start with a physical examination to feel the organs in the pelvis region or an enlarged prostate. Bladder scan may be done to see how much of urine is left after emptying the bladder.
Urodynamic test assesses the bladder’s ability to hold and store the urine. He/she may be asked to go for a urine analysis to look for the presence of blood or any abnormalities. If any deviations from normal are observed by the doctor, that may indicate other problems which might be causing Overactive Bladder. The urologist will use a cystoscope to see the interiors of the bladder and look for the presence of any tumors. In some cases, biopsy may be required.
If you are peeing more than 8 times in a period of 24 hours; waking up in the night multiple times to urinate and if you are leaking urine even after frequent urination, don’t wait to see a urologist. Overactive bladder is a treatable condition. Make sure you pick an experienced urologist or urogynecologist if you don’t have any reference from your family doctor.