What Causes a Person to Suffer From the Vagaries of an Overactive Bladder?

Woman with one hand holding her crotch and the other holding a roll of toilet paper.

An overactive bladder (OAB) causes a frequent and sudden urge to urinate that may be difficult to control. (Image: Pornchai Soda via Dreamstime)

An overactive bladder (OAB) causes a frequent and sudden urge to urinate that may be difficult to control. You may also experience unintentional loss of urine, otherwise known as “urgency incontinence.”

The bladder holds urine until it becomes full. Then, nerves in the muscles around the bladder tell it that it’s time to push urine out. Other nerves say to the urethra — the tube from the bladder — to open so the urine can leave the body. If the signals get mixed up or confused, the bladder thinks it’s full even when it’s nowhere close. That is an OAB.

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Symptoms of an overactive bladder (OAB)

  • Urinating frequently
  • Waking up a number of times in the night to urinate (nocturia).

You can help reduce the amount of time needed to urinate during the night by avoiding drinking two or three hours before going to bed.

More women than men commonly experience an OAB. However, the issue can affect both. In most cases, the exact reason why an OAB develops is unknown.

An OAB can take place if the muscles respond involuntarily. The bladder muscles work even when there is very little urine in the bladder.

Factors associated with an OAB include excess consumption of caffeine or alcohol, spicy foods, and incomplete bladder emptying. Some people with an OAB may also experience bowel issues. If this is the case, you should seek professional assistance urgently if you have not done so already.

Excess consumption of caffeine is one of the factors associated with an overactive bladder.
Excess consumption of caffeine is one of the factors associated with an overactive bladder. (Image: annapustynnikova via Envato Elements)

Suppose you have a strange urge to urinate. Then a doctor should check you to ensure that you haven’t contracted some infection or that there isn’t anything else to indicate any other underlying health complications.

More often than not, an OAB is a chronic condition. Some strategies and medications can improve the situation, but it still may never entirely go away.

In March 2019, Healthline published What Home Remedies Work for an Overactive Bladder? A Japanese study found that pumpkin seeds and soybean seed extract significantly reduced incontinence. Pumpkin seeds are high in Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega 3 is known to be anti-inflammatory. Bladder-friendly drinks include plain water, barley water, and caffeine-free teas such as fruit teas.

Smoking can upset the bladder muscles and the accompanying “smokers cough” adds to the pressure. Coughing can cause leakage of the bladder.

Closeup of a lit cigarette.
Smoking can upset the bladder muscles and the accompanying ‘smokers cough’ adds to the pressure. (Image: twenty20photos via Envato Elements)

There are also specific pelvic floor exercises recommended for maintaining a healthy bladder, especially for women. These are known as “Kegel exercises.” Kegel exercises strengthen the muscles to minimize involuntary contractions and improve posture.

An OAB can interfere with intimacy in the bedroom as well. However, there are some steps you can take if this is causing a particular issue, such as talking it through together and planning ahead to be fully prepared.

For centuries, people have turned to the treatment technique of acupuncture. This ancient technique stimulates specific points on the body using very thin needles. Studies have shown that it can increase the amount of urine your bladder can hold and reduce the urgency and the frequency of urination.

For those who don’t respond to lifestyle changes or medication, surprisingly, Botox could be another solution to consider. Botox can be injected into the bladder muscle, causing the muscle to relax, increasing its storage capacity, and reducing leakage episodes.

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