Overactive Bladder

What is an Overactive Bladder?

An overactive bladder is characterized by the frequent urgency to urinate. It can become increasingly difficult to control, and it can result in urinary incontinence, embarrassment and seclusion. Involuntary contraction of the bladder muscles can cause the sudden need to urinate. The bladder feels full, even when it might contain very little urine. In addition to age-related cognitive degeneration, the causes of an overactive bladder are numerous. Although a definitive cause is not always found, it may be caused by:

  • Diabetes
  • Neurological condition
  • Kidney disease
  • Prostate problems
  • High fluid consumption
  • Certain medications
  • Bladder conditions, abnormalities or disease
  • Urinary tract obstruction
  • Caffeine
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Inability to fully empty the bladder
  • Constipation

What are the Symptoms of an Overactive Bladder?

The symptoms of an overactive bladder vary from one individual to the next, but it may include:

  • Getting out of bed to urinate twice or more each night
  • Urinating eight or more times in a 24-hour period
  • Urgent need to urinate with or without loss of bladder control

Overactive Bladder Causes

Overactive bladder can be caused by one of two things; incorrect nerve signaling of the bladder, or overactive bladder muscles.

When incorrect nerve signaling is to blame for overactive bladder, the nerves which tell the brain that the bladder is full begin to signal even when the bladder is empty or just partially full. When overactive bladder muscles are to blame, the muscles which control urine flow begin to contract before the bladder is full, which creates a sudden and urgent need to urinate.

There are a wide range of causes of these two dysfunctions. Sometimes lifestyle factors are to blame. Certain fluids, particularly caffeine and alcohol, can irritate the bladder and stimulate the urge to urinate when the bladder isn’t full. In other instances, the bladder can become irritated due to drinking too little, causing urine to become highly concentrated and irritate the bladder. Infection in the bladder can cause a similar irritation and increase the need to urinate.

There are also lots of medical conditions which can lead to overactive bladder, including:

  • Diabetes
  • Prostate problems
  • Previous pelvic surgery to treat stress incontinence
  • Conditions which affect the nervous system, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and stroke.

How is an Overactive Bladder Treated?

An overactive bladder can greatly affect quality of life, but a number of potentially helpful treatment options are available. They may include:

  • Pelvic floor strengthening exercises (male or female specific)
  • Weight loss
  • Avoidance of alcohol, caffeine and other foods and beverages that irritate the bladder
  • Catheter use
  • Bladder therapy
  • Absorbent pad use
  • Fluid intake scheduling
  • Medication to decrease feelings of urgency
  • Botox bladder injections
  • Nerve stimulation
  • Bladder reconstruction surgery
  • Bladder removal with internal replacement or stoma and external bag

Overactive Bladder Prevention

Not all instances of overactive bladder can be prevented, particularly when conditions affecting the nervous system are to blame. However, when overactive bladder appears to have no medical cause, it may be prevented by drinking more fluids and avoiding bladder irritants.

Men should strive to drink around 13 cups of fluid each day, while women should drink around 9 cups. Getting plenty of fluids is important for overall health, but it also helps to prevent urine from becoming highly concentrated and causing irritation in the bladder. Plus, it will help to flush out bacteria from the bladder which could cause infection and lead to an overactive bladder. Although it isn’t necessary for all fluids to be water, you should avoid having too many caffeinated or fizzy fluids as these can both cause irritation.