Sara Snyder, C.N.P.
Overactive bladder, or OAB, is a condition that causes a sudden urge to urinate, and affects both men and women. The urge may be difficult to stop, and overactive bladder may lead to the involuntary loss of urine, known as urge incontinence.
If you have OAB, you may feel embarrassed, isolate yourself or limit your work and social life. The good news is that a brief evaluation can determine whether there's a specific cause for your overactive bladder symptoms.
Is an overactive bladder common?
OAB affects over 33 million Americans. Stress urinary incontinence is the most prominent form of incontinence among women in the U.S., where 1 in 4 women over 18 experience episodes of leaking urine involuntary.
What causes an overactive bladder?
Pregnancy, childbirth and menopause all are major reasons of the increased prevalence of incontinence in women as compared to men. Normally, when your bladder is full of urine, the brain signals the bladder to empty. The bladder muscles contract, forcing urine out of the bladder. When the bladder is not full, your bladder is relaxed.
With a healthy bladder, the brain signals that the bladder is getting full, but there is time to wait to go to the bathroom. With OAB, there is no waiting. People often feel a sudden urge to urinate. This also can happen if the bladder is not full. If the nerve signals between the bladder and brain do not work properly, OAB can result. OAB also can occur when your bladder muscles are too active, causing the bladder muscles to contract and pass urine before the bladder is full. This sudden, strong urge to urinate is called urinary urgency.
When is it important to talk to a health care provider?
An overactive bladder can get in the way of your work, social life, exercise and sleep routines. It's important to discuss a variety of treatments with your health care provider, as OAB symptoms can make it difficult to make it through the day.
OAB is not a normal part of:
- Getting older
- Being female
- An issue with the prostate in men
- Something you may feel like you've done
How do urology providers help you manage your OAB symptoms?
There are a variety of treatments for managing OAB. Depending on your situation, options may include simple behavioral modifications, oral medications or, if needed, surgery. Scheduling an appointment with your health care provider is the first step. Discussing your medical history and current symptoms helps guide the correct individual therapy. There even are treatments to help minor cases of OAB.
How well does treatment for OAB work?
Although many treatments exist for OAB, and millions of men and women worldwide are affected, there is no single treatment that has been proven to be most effective. This is why it is important to be evaluated, so a provider may develop a plan of care that is individualized for you.