Overactive bladder (OAB) is any combination of the following problems:
- Urinary urgency, an uncomfortably pressing need to get to the toilet.
- Urinary frequency or having to urinate more often than you should.
- Urge incontinence, when you leak urine along with feeling like you need to urinate due to unexpected bladder contraction.
Causes of OAB
The bladder has two jobs:
- It should fill with urine until it is almost at capacity without leaking.
- When you sit on the toilet, the bladder muscle should squeeze itself empty of urine then relax to go back to filling up.
With OAB, the bladder has trouble keeping those two jobs separate.
Sometimes, it starts to squeeze before it is at capacity, and before you are ready to empty it. This is what we call urge incontinence. Sometimes the bladder “wants” to start emptying before it is truly full, which is what happens with urinary frequency.
Treatments for OAB
- Lifestyle changes: Reducing your caffeine and alcohol intake as they can irritate the bladder and increase urination. Losing weight, taking precautions against urinary tract infections and preventing constipation by increasing fiber intake can be helpful.
- Bladder training by using techniques such as distraction to lengthen time between urination. Most women experience results within 2 to 3 weeks.
- Strengthening the pelvic floor muscles with pelvic floor physical therapy.
- Medications to control your symptoms. Sometimes, using medication in combination with lifestyle change and bladder training is helpful.
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