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10 Facts About Overactive Bladders

The symptoms of OAB are fairly self-explanatory: your bladder is, indeed, overactive.  But the causes of it are not as clear.  Like anything else, it’s not necessarily the causes that matter so much to the patient but the solutions.  So here are ten facts, symptoms, details, causes, and solutions to help you understand OAB better and make the best decisions for you.

1. Age -– Although OAB can happen to anyone, the most common ages are post-40 for men and, especially, women.  The muscles associated with urinating weaken over time and other factors can contribute more and more when those habits extend over time. All that to say, it becomes more likely as you get older. 

2. Look-alikes -– Basically, Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs).  Neurological conditions are sometimes related but are extremely rare. UTIs, in particular, can create similar symptoms and will have to be ruled out before a diagnosis of OAB can be confirmed.  Pressure from an enlarged prostate can also cause a similar host of symptoms.

3. Percentage -– Because it is not always a permanent problem, many people experience OAB at some point.  In fact, one study found that 10% of women had experienced OAB.  The average age of women in that study? 22.

4. Symptoms -– There are 4 primary symptoms of OAB:

  • Urgency – This is the symptom that is the most characteristic of OAB.  Unfortunately, there is no real way to define “urgent.”  But a sudden and, well, urgent need to urinate followed by a difficulty in holding it is what this symptom -– and OAB -– is all about.
  • Frequency – There is a wide range of “acceptable” times to urinate per day and a lot of it depends on fluid intake. A healthy average should be around 6.  Significantly more than this, or urinating more than ~6 times a day with only small amounts each time can be a sign of OAB.
  • Nocturia – One of the most annoying features of OAB is nocturia, or, being woken up in the middle of the night by the urge to urinate.  More than twice a night is not only extremely annoying but is also a strong sign of OAB.
  • Urge Incontinence – This is the most maddening symptom of OAB.  Urge incontinence is simply the feeling of an urgent need and the inability to “hold it.”  The fact that it is easy to define does not make it any less distressing.

5. The 2 Types -– Though not particularly creatively named, the two types of OAB are at least descriptive: Wet and Dry. Interestingly, urge incontinence is not required to get a diagnosis of OAB.  But, if it is present, the OAB can be classified as “wet.” Some amount of ambiguity is always possible; wet OAB can vary between a small leak to the entire contents of your bladder.

6. Cause -– Everything from a stroke to catheter usage to habitually holding it too long can cause an onset of OAB.  But for the most part, the specific causes are usually unknown.  The most important part is prevention and, when it’s too late for that, maintenance/treatment.  Luckily, for most people, it will go away given treatment and time.

7. Prevention

  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Don’t smoke.
  • Strengthen the muscles in your pelvic floor.
  • Drink a reasonable amount each day: totaling 6-8 glasses of fluid. Not too much, not too little.
  • For men: manage prostate size.

8. Maintenance

  • Avoid coffee, caffeine in general, large amounts of citrus, carbonation, and alcohol. All are known to irritate the bladder.  Caffeine and alcohol are diuretics and are doubly bad for sufferers of OAB.
  • Avoid constipation. It is known to worsen the effects of OAB.  And straining on the toilet can weaken the pelvic floor muscles -– the very muscles needed to maintain proper bladder control.
  • Keep your body at a healthy weight. Obesity is known to exacerbate the symptoms as is diabetes, another condition that can result from long-term weight problems.

9. Timeframe -– Some good news?  Up to 40% of people will see their symptoms subside in less than a year.

10. Finally -– Talk to your doctor.  These are general guidelines.  There are exercises and training methods to help fight against OAB that need to be properly discussed and managed with your doctor.

P.S. It’s easy to do but never reduce fluid intake to control OAB.  It is unhealthy in general AND will worsen your OAB over time.

Sometimes you’re too busy.  That makes it particularly annoying when your bladder is, too.  There are absolutely ways to fight OAB.  See a doctor, follow suggested protocols, and, if necessary, medications exist to help you in your fight.

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