What’s Causing Your Overactive Bladder?


Overactive bladder (OAB) is an umbrella term for urinary symptoms that affect your bladder’s activity, but it is not a disease. It’s characterized by the sudden or often need to urinate, usually without any “warning” signs. Some people will also leak urine involuntarily, a symptom known as urinary incontinence.   

These symptoms often intrude on the daily lives of those affected. You might be afraid to be too far from a restroom, or are losing sleep because of frequent trips to the bathroom in the middle of the night. These worries don’t just stop you from wanting to do big things like travel, they can also affect your ability to do simple, everyday tasks like taking your dog for a walk. 

In actuality, overactive bladder is not just something you have to learn to live with. There are several ways to treat an overactive bladder including dietary changes, prescription drugs, botox treatments, and surgery. However, to determine how to fix your overactive bladder, you should first understand what’s really causing it. 

There’s a lot of misconceptions about what causes OAB; most people assume it comes with the territory of aging, being a woman, or having other issues with the bladder or prostate. In many cases, OAB is indirectly caused by other health-related changes in your body, making it a symptom of a separate problem. 

Continue reading to learn more about the changes in your health that could be the cause of OAB. 

Health Changes Causing Overactive Bladder (OAB)

Before you can choose a treatment plan that’s right for you, learn about the health changes that could be causing your overactive bladder. 

1. Nerve damage

If you have recently experienced a trauma such as brain or spinal cord injuries, herniated discs, radiation, or you’ve recently had a stroke, been diagnosed with Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, or diabetes, you may have nerve damage

Your body knows when to urinate because your brain sends a signal to your bladder that it needs to be emptied, but nerve damage can interrupt this process, making you believe you need to go when you really don’t. Those affected by the aforementioned injuries or diseases who are experiencing OAB should contact a neurologist to discuss the possible connection. 

How to combat nerve damage:

If you suffer from overactive bladder, your brain can get used to the idea of you needing to urinate. Often times this causes the brain to think your bladder is full when it’s not, sending false signals to your bladder. Try to stick to a schedule, gradually adjusting your bathroom habits to retrain your bladder and eliminate the need to urinate so frequently. Track your urination patterns and determine how often you’re using the bathroom, then try little by little to extend the time between visits. 

2. Weakened pelvic muscles

Pregnancy and childbirth can stretch and weaken the muscles in your abdomen, causing your bladder to sag out of place. If you’ve recently given birth, this may be the cause of OAB. Unfortunately, there’s no immediate treatment for this, but your body should eventually heal and return to its former condition, which is when you will regain control of your bladder. 

How to combat weakened pelvic muscles:

Certain exercises can strengthen your pelvic floor and help you regain bladder control. Kegels are a simple exercise that involves squeezing the muscles in your pelvic floor and holding the position for intervals of 15-30 seconds. These movements strengthen the muscles around your bladder just like lifting weights strengthen your biceps. 

3. Excess weight gain 

Gaining excess weight in the abdominal area can put extra pressure on the bladder, so if you’ve experienced a recent weight gain this could be contributing to your overactive bladder. Losing even a few pounds can relieve some of the pressure on your bladder and alleviate the symptoms of OAB. 

How to combat weight gain:

Extreme weight loss is unnecessary – even just a few pounds can make a huge difference. As you lose body fat in the abdomen, the pressure is taken off of the bladder. To create a safe weight loss plan that works for you, consult your primary physician.

4. Change in diet 

Certain foods and drinks can be categorized as “bladder irritating”, including spicy and acidic foods like curry, citrus fruits, coffee, tea, soda, and alcohol. If you recently started ingesting more of these products, there’s a chance it’s causing or advancing your overactive bladder. 

How to combat dietary changes:

Test out this method by avoiding bladder-irritating foods for a week or two and seeing if your symptoms improve. These foods include:

  1. Caffeinated drinks such as coffee, tea, and some sodas

  2. Acidic fruits such as lemons, lime, and oranges

  3. Spicy foods

  4. Tomato-based products 

5. New medication

Because some medicines contain caffeine, which is a diuretic, they can cause strain on the bladder. Diuretics are substances that promote the production of urine, and caffeine is a famous diuretic, which is why coffee, tea, and some sodas can irritate the bladder. If you’ve recently started taking a new medication, check the label to ensure caffeine is not one of the ingredients. Contact your doctor if you have any questions or want to make any changes in medications. 

How to combat new medications:

When behavioral methods aren’t working, it may be time to enlist medical help. Some medications can relax the muscles around your bladder and help prevent leaks, alleviating several symptoms of OAB. Consult your doctor about forms of medication that can aid overactive bladder and find a prescription that’s right for you.

Other Ways to Alleviate the Symptoms of OAB

As stated previously, overactive bladder is not something you just have to deal with — there are several ways to alleviate the symptoms and take back your life! Don’t be afraid to try a few of these methods to find what works best for you. 

1. Try botox

Botox is effective when used as a muscle relaxer and can be injected directly into the bladder to stop the muscles from contracting. With fewer muscle contractions, the “need to go” feeling will ease up and result in fewer trips to the bathroom. 

2. Consider nerve stimulation 

While more invasive than other methods, nerve stimulation may be just what you need to improve bladder control. Sacral nerve stimulation therapy is a reversible treatment in which a small device is implanted in the lower back; the device sends electrical impulses to nerves that control the bladder. 

3. Consider bladder surgery 

Bladder augmentation surgery is the last resort option for someone suffering from overactive bladder, so make sure you have tried the other methods before going the invasive route. This surgery takes a section of your large intestine to expand the bladder, making it bigger and capable of holding more urine. However, once you have a bladder augmentation, you will no longer be able to urinate naturally and will need a catheter, hence why is it a last resort option. Consult a urologist if you think this may be the next step for you. 

How USOC Can Help

Overactive bladder can impede your daily life, creating stress around the need to go. If you’re tired of the added anxiety that OAB brings and want to find a solution to the problem, let Urology Specialists of the Carolinas help. Find a location near you and give us a call!

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