Contrary to popular belief, an overactive bladder is not a part of the aging process. In fact, it can happen in younger adults, and it is both pernicious and persistent when left untreated. Having an overactive bladder is more than just annoying; it is downright embarrassing.
While you might feel tempted to stay home more often than you used to, you should rest assured that there is hope for regaining some normalcy.
An overactive bladder can be treated at home with various remedies as well as under your doctor’s clinical guidance.
Treatment, of course, can depend on the severity of your symptoms and how well (or poorly) your body responds to various types of interventions.
How Do I Know If I Have an Overactive Bladder?
It is sometimes hard to tell what is “normal” when it comes to your bladder. In fact, those with an overactive bladder will likely have some good days and some not-so-good days with regard to their urination urges.
So, how exactly are you supposed to tell whether or not you actually have a clinically-diagnosable case of an overactive bladder?
Pay attention to your symptoms. As Nurse Rachel Nall writes, the most typical symptoms of an overactive bladder include:
- Urinating eight or more times within a 24-hour span
- Experiencing sudden, uncontrollable urges to urinate
- Experiencing incontinence (in other words, accidentally urinating right after experiencing a strong urge)
- Nocturia (frequently waking up during the night to urinate)
Not everyone experiences these symptoms to the same degree. As the North Bristol NHS Trust highlights, Nocturia tends to be the most difficult symptom to treat and can persist even after all of the other symptoms have been successfully treated.
What Causes an Overactive Bladder?
Normal urination involves your kidneys producing urine and passing it into your bladder. From there, urine flows out of your urethra and out of your body.
Nerve signals get sent to your brain while your kidneys empty urine into your bladder, and this causes your brain to become aware of the need to urinate.
When the urge gets triggered, signals are sent to the nerves in your urinary sphincter muscles, instructing them to relax so that urine can flow. The muscles in your bladder contract, pushing the urine out of the bladder, through your urethra, and out of your body.
Here’s the thing – muscles behave either voluntarily (after receiving messages from the nerves) or involuntarily, which is what happens to those with overactive bladders, according to Britain’s National Health Services (NHS).
Your bladder muscle is involuntarily contracting, even when there is not a lot of urine in your bladder. This, unfortunately, tends to be a symptom of a deeper underlying cause.
So, just what could be causing your bladder muscle to involuntarily contract?
There are quite a few possibilities, including:
- Neurological disorders
- Excessive alcohol and/or caffeine consumption
- Connective tissue disorders
- Medications that increase urine production and/or encourage a lot of fluid consumption
- Tumors or stones in the bladder
- Acute urinary tract infections (UTIs)
- Constipation or an enlarged prostate
- Damage sustained during vaginal childbirth
- Inability to fully empty the bladder
- Difficulties with walking
- Cognitive decline (due to the negative impact on neurotransmitters that relay signals)
When to Seek Treatment
Since having an overactive bladder is more of a symptom than a solitary condition, it is important that you get an opinion from your primary care physician.
Having an overactive bladder is humiliating and can be life-disrupting. As embarrassing as it is to talk about, this is something that your doctor should know about.
You should be aware of your risk factors, too. Those who are older, who have diabetes, are men with enlarged prostates, have gastrointestinal issues, and/or are experiencing cognitive decline are all at risk of developing an overactive bladder.
Sometimes, an overactive bladder will be the first big clue that something is amiss, so this symptom should not be taken lightly.
Medical Treatment For an Overactive Bladder
If you see your doctor for your overactive bladder, there is a good chance that they will recommend a prescription medication for you to take each day.
The most commonly prescribed medication is oxybutynin (Ditropan XL is its brand name). Oxybutynin comes as either an immediate- or extended-release pill or syrup, with the tabs being available only in the generic form.
As George A. DeMaagd and Timothy C. Davenport write, oxybutynin is regarded as one of the most effective medications for treating an overactive bladder since it has a high tolerability rate with minimal side-effects.
The extended-release version is seemingly the most effective form as it works well at reducing urges throughout the day.
Oxybutynin does have a few side-effects, such as inflammation, dry mouth, and drowsiness; however, these tend to be mild for most people.
Are There Other Remedies?
As Dr. Catrina Crisp states in this YouTube video, there are some simple ways to reduce the frequency and urge. You will need to restrict your caffeine intake each day.
Caffeine will trigger the urination sensation, as will acidic drinks (such as orange juice). Sticking with more alkaline drinks can help reduce urges and frequency. Water is your best bet, but cranberry juice and apple juice are also good alkaline options.
As doctors, Andreas Marques, Lynn Strothers, and Andrew Macnab highlight, another recommended treatment that you can do at home are Kegel exercises.
These exercises help you strengthen your bladder, bowel, and (for women) uterine muscles. While many of these exercises are geared toward women, there are specific Kegel exercises geared toward men.
Additionally, you can try double-voiding your bladder by waiting an additional 30 seconds after your first round of urination, then urinating again to ensure that you have fully emptied your bladder.
While sitting, you will need to lean slightly forward, as this will encourage the rest of the urine to flow out in a relaxed manner.
Having an overactive bladder is not normal at any age and is certainly unpleasant and embarrassing. Since it is usually a strong indicator that something more deeply-rooted is going on in your body,
you should consider making an appointment with your doctor to discuss what might be causing your overactive bladder and what the best mode of treatment might be for you.