Symptoms of overactive bladder may affect your quality of life:
- Feel a sudden urge to urinate that's difficult to control
- Experience urge incontinence - the involuntary loss of urine immediately following an urgent need to urinate
- Urinate frequently, usually eight or more times in 24 hours
- Awaken two or more times in the night to urinate (nocturia)
The specific cause of an overactive bladder may remain unknown.
However, several conditions may cause overactive bladder, including:
- Neurological disorders, such as stroke and multiple sclerosis
- Medications that cause a rapid increase in urine production or require that you take them with lots of fluids
- Acute urinary tract infections that can cause symptoms similar to an overactive bladder
- Abnormalities in the bladder, such as tumours or bladder stones
- Factors that obstruct bladder outflow - enlarged prostate, constipation or previous operations to treat other forms of incontinence
- Excess consumption of caffeine or alcohol
- Declining cognitive function due to ageing, which may make it more difficult for your bladder to understand the signals it receives from your brain
- Difficulty walking, which can lead to bladder urgency if you're unable to get to the bathroom quickly
- Incomplete bladder emptying, which may lead to symptoms of overactive bladder, as you have little urine storage space left
These healthy lifestyle choices may reduce your risk of overactive bladder:
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Get regular, daily physical activity and exercise.
- Limit consumption of caffeine.
- Quit smoking.
- Manage chronic conditions, such as diabetes that might contribute to overactive bladder symptoms.
- Learn where your pelvic floor muscles are and then strengthen them by doing Kegel exercises - tighten (contract) muscles, hold the contraction for two seconds and relax muscles for three seconds. Work up to holding the contraction for five seconds and then 10 seconds at a time. Do three sets of 10 repetitions each day.
Behavioral interventions are the first choice in helping manage an overactive bladder. They're often useful, and they carry no side effects. Behavioral interventions may include:
- Pelvic floor muscle exercises. Kegel exercises strengthen your pelvic floor muscles and urinary sphincter. These strengthened muscles can help you stop the bladder's involuntary contractions. Your doctor or a physical therapist can help you learn how to do Kegel exercises correctly. It may take as long as six to eight weeks before you notice a difference in your symptoms.
- Healthy weight. If you're overweight, losing weight may ease symptoms. Weight loss may help if you also have stress urinary incontinence.
- Scheduled toilet trips. Setting a schedule for toileting - for example, every two to four hours - gets you on track to urinate at the same times every day rather than waiting until you feel the urge to urinate.
- Intermittent catheterisation. Using a catheter periodically to empty your bladder completely helps your bladder do what it can't do by itself. Ask your doctor if this approach is right for you.
- Absorbent pads. Wearing absorbent pads or undergarments can protect your clothing and help you avoid embarrassing incidents, which means that you won't have to limit your activities. Absorbent garments come in a variety of sizes and absorbency levels.
- Bladder training. Bladder training involves training yourself to delay voiding when you feel an urge to urinate. You begin with small delays, such as 30 minutes, and gradually work your way up to urinating every three to four hours. Bladder training is possible only if you're able to tighten (contract) your pelvic floor muscles successfully.
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