Lets talk about overactive bladder syndrome

What is overactive bladder syndrome?

Overactive bladder syndrome (OAB) is a medical condition where a person regularly gets a sudden and compelling need to pass urine, due to involuntary contractions of the muscle in the wall of the bladder. This sensation is difficult to put off and can happen at any time during the day or night, often without warning.

What causes OAB?

OAB can be a manifestation of other disease or conditions, such as; diabetes mellitus, urinary tract infection, pressure on the bladder from an enlarged uterus or ovarian cyst, local disease in the bladder (ulcer or mass) or a neurological disease.

Having an overactive bladder can also be a problem in its own right, without an underlying cause. This happens when there is increased sensation from small volumes of urine in the bladder, with or without causing unwanted bladder contraction. Habitual frequent passing of urine for fear of leakage can lead to overactive bladder, as a learnt behaviour. Plus, excessive fluid intake, especially the consumption of caffeinated drinks, and smoking can irritate the bladder enough to cause or worsen the condition.

What are the symptoms of OAB?

OAB is characterised by a number of symptoms including;

  • Urgency. Having to rush to the toilet to pass urine.

  • Frequency. Need to pass urine frequently by day.

  • Nocturia. Waking up in the night to pass urine.

  • Urge incontinence. Leakage of urine on the way to the toilet.

How is OAB diagnosed and treated?

To diagnose this condition your consultant will first ask about your symptoms and medical history. They may need to do a physical examination and a urine test to identify underlying or contributory causes. You will be asked to complete a frequency volume chart (bladder diary) which records the frequency and volume of the urine you pass on a daily basis. You may also have a flow test which includes passing urine into a device to measure the strength of your flow and to see if you can empty your bladder completely.

Treatments can vary depending on the severity of your symptoms and the cause of the condition. They include;

  • Lifestyle changes. This includes fluid intake advice and smoking cessation.

  • Bladder training.

  • Pelvic floor muscle training.

  • Medicine.

  • Surgery may be an option if the above treatments have failed to work.

This article is intended to inform and give insight but not treat, diagnose or replace the advice of a doctor. Always seek medical advice with any questions regarding a medical condition.

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