Do you feel the urge to urinate more than 6 to 8 times a day? Do you often feel like you’re having “pee emergencies” that send you running to the toilet, unsure if you’ll make it in time? You may have an overactive bladder, or OAB.
What is an overactive bladder?
Having an overactive bladder is a type of urinary incontinence known as urge incontinence. It is caused when the nerves in and around your bladder are damaged. As a result, your bladder muscles spasm, creating the sensation of a sudden and intense urge to urinate that can send you running to the toilet. Sometimes, you may not make it to the toilet on time. This can happen even when the bladder isn’t full.
All of us feel the urge to pee very badly on occasion. This is normal. So how do you know if you have overactive bladder? Here are some symptoms:
- You have to urinate more than 8 times a day
- The urge to urinate often wakes you up in the middle of the night
- The urge to urinate comes on so strongly and suddenly that you feel you may not make it to the toilet
Causes and risk factors of an overactive bladder
Overactive bladder is the result of nerve damage to the bladder and pelvic floor, the system of muscles, nerves and ligaments that support the bladder, uterus, and anus. Damage to other parts of the nervous system can also play a part, especially when there’s a hitch in the communication between the bladder and the brain. This means that the brain doesn’t receive proper signals that it’s time to go.
There are a number of urge incontinence risk factors for overactive bladder in women:
Overactive bladder in women is often caused by nerve damage resulting from a C-section. Overactive bladder in women can also be caused by nerve damage sustained during natural childbirth.
- Previous pelvic surgery
In addition to past C-sections, any other previous pelvic surgery may have damaged the nerves connected to your pelvic floor and bladder.
- Neurological disease
Diseases that affect the nervous system, such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, stroke or even diabetes, can create a hitch in the brain’s communication with the bladder muscles as well as in the functioning of the nerves in and around the bladder, resulting in an overactive bladder.
Some medications can also play a role in the sensitivity of your bladder and the surrounding nerves.
- Urinary tract infection
The irritation and inflammation caused by a urinary tract infection will result in an aggravated and overactive bladder. However, this is temporary. As soon as the infection clears up, your bladder should go back to functioning normally.
Treatments and remedies
Sure, having an overactive bladder is not exactly fun. But it doesn’t have to get in the way of having some! While it can feel overwhelming, there are a number of lifestyle changes you can make in order to alleviate or manage overactive bladder symptoms. Most of them are pretty straightforward and easy to implement, while delivering a big pay-off. Try out some of the treatments and remedies below to see what works best for you.
Sure, nerve and muscle damage in your bladder can be hard to combat. But this doesn’t mean that it can’t be improved! Just like any other muscle in your body, your bladder can get stronger. All it takes is a little training. Train your bladder to both lengthen the amount of time between bathroom trips and increase the amount of urine it can hold so that you have more bladder control. Here’s how to do it. Start by holding your urine for five minutes every time you feel the urge to go. When that starts to feel easy, try holding it for ten minutes, and gradually work your way up, strengthening your bladder muscles over time.
Stay on schedule
Another way to train your bladder is to create a toilet schedule for yourself. Use the loo on a fixed schedule – say, every hour, at first. Be sure to go whether or not you feel the urge. Not only does this prevent your bladder from filling up, it also enables you to get into a toilet routine. Once you feel comfortable with your schedule, try increasing the amount of time between each scheduled toilet visit. This way, your bladder muscles will slowly get stronger and grow accustomed to holding more urine in the bladder without it spasming.
This technique is called the 'double empty' method. It makes sure you have emptied all the urine from your bladder. Keeping your bladder empty can reduce the risk associated with a bladder spasm. After all, if there isn’t much in your bladder, you won’t have a big leak if your bladder spasms. This ensures you won’t have a urine emergency just moments after leaving the loo. Here’s how to do it. After you’ve finished urinating, remain on the toilet for 30 seconds, and then urinate again.
If you feel the urge to go so intensely, it may be tempting to limit your water intake. This is a big no-no. Not drinking enough water will make your urine more concentrated and acidic. Increased acidity in your urine will aggravate your bladder, induce more spasming, and make your symptoms worse. So, don’t be afraid to drink up! Carry around a water bottle with you wherever you go and take small sips of water to stay hydrated throughout the day.
Eat and drink with your bladder in mind
Adopting a bladder-friendly diet will go a long way in easing your overactive bladder symptoms. This means avoiding foods that make your urine acidic, because acid will further irritate your bladder. This means saying no to caffeine, alcohol, citrus fruits, carbonated drinks and spicy foods.
Wearing protection can give you peace of mind for those moments when you won’t be able to make it to the loo on time. Always has taken their trusted absorbency technology and applied it to urinary products for bladder protection that is comfortable, flexible and reliably dry. The ALWAYS DISCREET line has a range of products, including liners, pads and underwear, each tailored to meet your unique absorbency needs. ALWAYS DISCREET products have an absorbent core that neutralises odours and turns liquid into gel for superior bladder protection that keeps liquid away from your skin, keeping you comfortable. They’re so thin, no one will know you’re wearing one.
Cigarette smoke can aggravate your bladder muscles. Smoker’s cough can also trigger little leaks of urine. Living a healthy lifestyle can greatly improve symptoms of an overactive bladder!
If all else fails…
If you’re not seeing results from behavioural remedies, you may want to seek professional help.
Going down the doctor route
You may want to consult your doctor about your medical options. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages, so be sure to weigh each option and choose which is best for you and your lifestyle.
Going the alternative route
Using very fine needles inserted into pinpointed, strategic places in your body, acupuncturists can target specific nerve pathways related to urination. This may ease some of the symptoms of an overactive bladder.