Overactive bladder (or OAB) is a condition in which a person experiences an overwhelming need to urinate even when their bladder isn’t full. It can be caused by malfunctioning nerves between the brain and bladder that send the “empty” signal at inappropriate times. Overactive bladder muscles can also contract too frequently, producing a strong, sudden urge to urinate.
Neurological conditions, hormonal changes, and pelvic muscle weakness can also cause overactive bladder symptoms. The following are the four main symptoms of overactive bladder.
1. Sudden urge to urinate
The primary symptom associated with an overactive bladder OAB is an inescapable need to urinate. When this urge strikes, it’s impossible to ignore because it makes one feel as if they will leak urine if they don’t make a restroom stop right away.
Even if this feeling of urgency isn’t accompanied by leaking, it can quickly progress from annoying to distressful. Whether you’re at work or having a romantic evening with your spouse, the urge to urinate can become all-consuming. If untreated, OAB can limit one’s life by limiting one’s choices of occupational and recreational activity.
2. Leaking urine
Urgency is bad enough. When it’s accompanied by leaking urine, a condition called urge incontinence, it can further limit life choices. Such urge incontinence happens just as suddenly as the feelings of urgency themselves.
Leaking urine can make simple everyday life much more complicated. Needing to frequently clean and possibly replace urine-soiled items can soon become expensive. Moreover, it doesn’t take much urine on the skin to cause skin breakdown and infections.
3. Frequent urination
Although there is some variation in urinary habits, someone with a healthy bladder urinates no more than eight times in 24 hours. Therefore, one who has the symptom of frequent urination empties their bladder nine or more times during this same timeframe. To put this into perspective, that’s an average of a urination break more than once every three hours.
While workplaces must give their employees access to restrooms, multiple bathroom breaks during the day can reduce productivity and cause interruptions during meetings. For individuals who spend much of their time at home, frequent urination may not seem like much of an issue at first glance. Unfortunately, rushing to the bathroom is still one of the top causes of in-home falls and injuries.
4. Getting up at night to urinate
Waking up once in the middle of the night to urinate is normal. Rising multiple times to respond to an overactive bladder is not. Nocturia is the formal name for this OAB symptom.
As is the case with frequent urination, nocturia can lead to bumps, bruises, and falls as one rushes toward the bathroom in the dark. It also interrupts sleep, leading to a reduction in the total hours and quality of slumber. If one sleeps with a significant other, nocturia can also ruin rest for them.
Overactive bladder OAB is a condition with many social, mental, and physical health consequences. Those experiencing its symptoms directly or indirectly as a family member need to seek medical guidance. Many interventions, therapies, and treatments are available to help make living with this condition much more comfortable.