Contributed by: Rachana Arya
Overactive bladder (OAB) is a condition in which the bladder can no longer hold urine normally. If you have an overactive bladder, it means that the nerves surrounding your bladder send abnormal signals to urinate, even if your bladder isn’t full. Frequent, strong urges to urinate and difficulty holding it in are usually caused by involuntary bladder contractions. The constant urge to urinate can be disabling, frustrating, and exhausting.
The most common symptoms of an overactive bladder include:
- Inability to control urination
- Urinating frequently, usually more than 8 times a day
- Uncontrollable urge to urinate spontaneously
- Urge to wake frequently during the night to urinate
- Leakage of urine before making it to the washroom
- Strain or discomfort during urination
Myths about the normal functioning of the bladder are aplenty. Guess what? Many aren’t true. Have you fallen for any of the myths about this frequently misunderstood and misdiagnosed condition?
Now, let’s get to the truth about OAB.
Myth #1: OAB is caused due to a small bladder
Some people blame a small bladder for frequent leaks, but this is rarely the true cause of such a problem. It is not the size of your bladder. The real culprit is more likely to be:
Myth #2: Overactive bladder is women’s only issue
OAB can happen to anyone. It can affect both men and women at different stages of life. However, it is more common among females and people older than 40 years. However, it’s not a natural part of female biology or even aging. The overactive bladder doesn’t discriminate by sex. In fact, starting at age 60, more men than women say they have symptoms of the condition, although women are more likely than men to seek medical help for the problem.
Myth #3: OAB can make you leak when you laugh hard or cough
Overactive bladder is characterized by sudden, strong desires to urinate. You may urinate eight or more times per day. Additionally, you may also wake up two or more times per night to urinate. The condition of leaking urine when you laugh, cough, or exercise is known as stress incontinence. It is, nevertheless, possible to have both conditions simultaneously.
Myth #4: “I’m too young for OAB”
That’s the biggest misconception, especially in women – needing to go all the time is a by-product of getting older. Living in the bathroom is emotionally taxing and isn’t normal at any age. While OAB is more common in post-menopausal women, but it isn’t confined to the retirement set. The truth is, approximately 17% of women between the ages of 18 to 40 suffer from OAB. In fact, middle-agers, young adults, and even children can have the condition.
Myth #5: To control overactive bladder, cut down on water intake
Conventional wisdom might suggest that drastically cutting back drastically on how much water you drink can help to avoid the constant urge to urinate. But that isn’t the case. And this isn’t healthy as well. Limiting fluid intake can get you dehydrated. Avoiding fluids can also potentially make your urine highly concentrated and acidic and can irritate the bladder. So you might actually need to feel the need to urinate more often.
When it comes to water intake and OAB, the word to remember is “balance.” Aim to drink six to eight cups of fluids spaced throughout the day. Also, you might want to think more about what you drink. Consider downsizing caffeinated drinks as they work as a diuretic (meaning they increase your urge to pee).
Myth #6: There’s nothing you can do about an overactive bladder
Overactive bladder (OAB) can be a challenge. A lot of people think OAB is just a fact of life. That’s not true since there are lots of ways to manage it. There are various effective treatments available, so don’t be afraid to discuss symptoms of overactive bladder with your doctor. Behavioral approaches—such as diet changes, reducing bladder irritants like caffeinated beverages, pelvic muscle exercises, and bladder re-training—are often helpful. Medication may be prescribed as well.
Myth #7: OAB is something you must live with
This is the most important myth that needs to be debunked. Don’t hesitate to talk to your doctors about this common yet bothersome condition. They’ll assist you in selecting a treatment that you’re comfortable with. You might worry they’ll jump straight to surgery, but there are lots of effective non-surgical options you can try first. Here are some treatments your doctor might suggest:
- Lifestyle and diet changes
- Bladder retraining
- Managing fluid intake
- Pelvic floor exercises
- Botox injections
- Nerve stimulating procedures
It’s normal to keep your bathroom habits private. Yet the fact that we feel embarrassed about an overactive bladder may explain why there are so many misconceptions surrounding the condition. Remember, if you have the urge to pee more than eight times a day (or two or more times at night), it’s wise to see the urologist for an accurate diagnosis and treatment.
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