If your need to ‘go’ never stops, your bladder may need extra special care.
Overactive bladder is not a disease but a condition that can terribly affect your quality of life. It can stop you from doing the things you love and it may even become a serious barrier to enjoying an active lifestyle.
Overactive bladder is essentially a frequent urge to urinate that cannot be controlled. It can cause the person suffering from this condition to leak urine. In other words, it could be a possible cause of incontinence. Overactive bladder can affect anyone although it is relatively common among the elderly.
An overactive bladder is an issue which is related to bladder storage. This occurs even when your bladder is not fully filled. A person with an overactive bladder will feel the need to urinate frequently and without warning.
Overactive bladder is characterised by these symptoms:
- A sudden feeling or urge to urinate which is difficult to control
- Visiting the toilet to urinate frequently. This is usually characterised as more than eight times a day
- An involuntary loss of urine which is also known as urge incontinence
Although experienced by quite a number of elderly people, overactive bladder is not a normal part of ageing. Medical treatment can help to manage these symptoms and improve your overall quality of life. The good news is an overactive bladder can be easily diagnosed with simple tests conducted by a medical practitioner.
In many cases, people experience overactive bladder may be too embarrassed to seek help or do not know that treatment is available. Hence, heading to the doctor to seek treatment requires some courage and awareness.
Do not be afraid to speak to your doctor if you suspect that you may be experiencing this condition. As a matter of fact, your doctor will be able to identify if the symptoms you’re experiencing is a cause for concern. Diagnosis of overactive bladder generally involves several simple tests. These include keeping a diary log, urodynamic tests and evaluating your medical history.
Your doctor may suggest keeping an overactive bladder diary at home. You’ll be required to log down certain details such as time of urination and the amount of urine excreted. Your doctor may also ask you some questions to find out more about your medical history such as:
- How often do you urinate?
- Do you feel any form of pain when urinating?
- Are you consuming any medications?
- Do you have any illnesses?
Urodynamic tests include measuring the amount of urine left in your bladder after voiding it, measurement of the urine flow rate and testing the pressure in your bladder.
Treating overactive bladder
If you have been diagnosed with overactive bladder, your doctor might suggest a form or a combination of treatments to manage the symptoms and improve your quality of life.
Treatment options can include behaviourial modifications such as:
- Lifestyle adjustments – These includes losing weight if you are overweight, adjusting your fluid consumption to suit your daily needs and making healthy food choices.
- Pelvic floor muscle exercise – Also known as Kegels, this exercise strengthens your pelvic floor muscles and can stop involuntary contractions of your bladder and incontinence as well. However, it is important that this exercise is done correctly in order for you to experience its benefits. Your doctor or a trained physiotherapist will be able to guide you through this. Once you’ve mastered the right technique, you’ll be able to do this exercise anytime, anywhere.
- Bladder training – Instead of voiding each time you feel the urge to, bladder training is when you delay voiding. For example, your doctor may suggest that you start with short delays of half an hour and gradually progress to an hour and so on.
Besides behaviourial modifications, medical intervention is also available to treat overactive bladder:
- Medication – Medications are available which helps your bladder muscles to relax. This reduces symptoms of overactive bladder. However, there are possible side effects that can arise due to certain types of medication such as dry eyes and mouth. Discuss with your doctor about the possible side effects of the medication prescribed for you.
- Injections – Botox injections is another form of treatment. The effects of Botox are not permanent and you will need to receive an injection every few months to maintain effectiveness. Botox works by temporarily paralysing the muscles around the bladder (only areas which have been injected with Botox) and this reduces the frequent urge to void.
- Surgery – Surgical options are also available if non-interventional treatment has not been successful or for patients with severe symptoms of overactive bladder. Surgical options include increasing your bladder’s capacity to hold urine. There is also the option of removing your bladder and using a stoma, which is an opening that is surgically created to divert the flow of urine from your body and into a disposable bag attached onto your skin.
Preventing from the start
Reduce your chances of an overactive bladder by making healthy lifestyle choices. This includes exercising regularly, avoiding smoking, limiting alcohol and caffeine consumption and strengthening your pelvic floor muscles by practicing Kegels.
Overactive bladder can lead to a lot of embarrassing situations and speaking to your doctor about this private matter may not be easy. However, seeking treatment is worthwhile as it will help you control this condition that can prevent you from enjoying life to the fullest.