The process of filling and then emptying the bladder is multifaceted and it involves functions of the kidneys, nerve impulses and receptors and the activities of several sets of muscles. When all functions as it should, the kidneys produce the urine which is then transported to the bladder via a set of tubes. From the bladder, the urine passes out of the body through an opening called the urethra which is located above the vagina in women and at the tip of the penis in men.
An overactive bladder (OAB) can occur because of a malfunction in any one or several of these functions. But what exactly is an overactive bladder? It’s exactly that — a bladder that is over active and suddenly urging you to make frequent rushed dashes to the nearest bathroom. As defined by the International Continence Society (ICS), an overactive bladder is a urological condition that is identified as the “urgency, with or without urge incontinence, usually with frequency and nocturia.” It can then lead to accidental loss of urine which is also known as incontinence and the urgency often exceeds eight times during a 24 hours time period.
The Causes of an Overactive Bladder
The causes of an overactive bladder can be many and varied. The trick is getting sufferers to share their symptoms with a medical professional because statistics show that only 50 percent of women and 30 percent of men actually seek medical advice.
Involuntary Bladder Contractions. In most cases, the muscles of the bladder contract involuntarily which creates the urgent need to urinate. Whether this urge leads to incontinence or not depends on the urinary sphincter. If the sphincter remains constricted urine will not be lost, but the moment the sphincter relaxes urine will leak out.
Diseases and Disorders. A number of neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, strokes and multiple sclerosis (MS) can contribute to the onset of an overactive bladder as can various kidney diseases, diabetes, urinary tract infections, inflammations of the tissues near and around the urinary tract, tumors of the bladder, bladder stones, enlarged prostates, constipation or a number of surgeries related to the urinary tract.
Excessive Intake. The excessive intake of fluids, caffeine or alcohol often leads to an overactive bladder.
Medications. The side effects of a variety of medications can cause an increased production of urine which can then lead to an overactive bladder.
Treating an Overactive Bladder
The symptoms of an overactive bladder can be embarrassing and cause sufferers to cut back on their daily activities which may include professional as well as social affairs. However, after a thorough evaluation by a medical professional and the determination of its cause, there are a number of treatments that can tremendously relieve the symptoms of an overactive bladder.
- Consuming Fluids. It is usually advisable to avoid caffeine and alcohol and to be vigilant about the quantity and timing of drinking fluids.
- Fiber Intake. Increase the intake of dietary fiber.
- Training the Bladder. The bladder can be trained by gradually delaying urination for longer periods of time.
- Double Voiding. It is advised to try urinating again shortly after the initial urgent urination.
- Scheduling Trips to the Bathroom. Urinating at the same time every day and every two or three hours may ease the sudden urgent needs.
- Kegel Exercises. These exercises strengthen the pelvic floor muscles and the urinary sphincter which are critical to holding back the flow of urine.
- Catheterization. Inserting a catheter directly into the bladder will help empty it completely.
- Pads. In case of an accident, wearing pads will avoid embarrassment in public.
- Weight lose. Losing and maintaining good body weight is essential to overall good health as well as controlling an overactive bladder.
- Medications. There are several medications that relax the bladder and help reduce the symptoms of an overactive bladder.
- Surgery. In the most severe cases and in cases which are not helped by other less invasive means, surgery may be an option.