When you have to go to much, you might have overactive bladder syndrome, the frequent and urgent need to urinate, unrelated to water intake and with a sense of immediacy. Dr. Ekene Enemchukwu provides some more information on the disorder’s symptoms and treatment for this week’s Get Well Wednesday.

WHAT IS OVERACTIVE BLADDER (OAB)?

Overactive bladder (OAB) is characterized by an urgent and frequent need to urinate1, which may be the difference between going to the bathroom and running to the bathroom frequently.

WHAT ARE THE COMMON SYMPTOMS OF OVERACTIVE BLADDER?

Major symptoms of OAB include sudden urges to pee that are difficult to control, a frequent need to go to the bathroom – usually eight or more times a day – and leakage or accidental wetting.1

IS THERE ANYTHING THAT CAN BE DONE TO PREVENT OAB FROM DEVELOPING AS WE AGE?

The symptoms of OAB are not necessarily a normal part of aging. Several treatment options are available and patients should talk to their doctor about those and potential lifestyle and behavioral changes such as avoiding excess caffeine, losing weight, making dietary changes, exercising pelvic muscles, bladder training, etc.1

WHAT PERCENTAGE OF AMERICANS HAVE OAB?

Approximately 46 million U.S. adults 40 years of age and older have reported symptoms of overactive bladder at least sometimes. Forty-three percent of women experience OAB symptoms at least sometimes.2

IS THE AFRICAN-AMERICAN COMMUNITY MORE SUSCEPTIBLE OR DISPROPORTIONATELY DIAGNOSED? 

OAB does not discriminate. The condition affects everyone equally, regardless of ethnic background.3

HOW DO YOU KNOW WHEN IT’S TIME TO TALK TO A HEALTHCARE PROFESSIONAL ABOUT OAB?

It’s time to talk to your doctor if you’re experiencing any OAB symptoms, such as: having difficulty controlling your sudden urges to pee, going to the bathroom eight or more times a day, or you’re experiencing leakage or accidental wetting.1

WHAT ACTUALLY CAUSES OAB?

Numerous factors can contribute to experiencing OAB symptoms, including neurologic conditions.

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO TALK ABOUT OVERACTIVE BLADDER AND WHAT IS BEING DONE TO RAISE AWARENESS?

According to the Peehavior survey of 2,584 women, conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs on behalf of Astellas Pharma US, 60 percent of women do not think about bladder health often or at all, including 55 percent of African-American and 51 percent of Hispanic women.4 It’s important to take care of one’s bladder health to avoid any serious health issues down the line.

To help raise awareness, Astellas launched Stop Stalling to educate and empower adults who may be experiencing the symptoms of an overactive bladder to talk to their healthcare professionals about their symptoms and how to manage them.

WHERE CAN PEOPLE GO FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT OAB?

People can learn more by visiting StopStalling.com.

Dr. Enemchukwu answers your questions below:

Can coffee cause OAB?

The short answer is yes, coffee can affect OAB symptoms. Coffee is both a diuretic and a bladder irritant. So while it is in your system, it can cause strong and frequent urges to urinate, even accidents (incontinence). But if you eliminate caffeine from your diet, you may see decent improvement of your symptoms.

Can foods containing MSG cause OAB?

This is a good question. Bladder irritants including spicy foods can in fact cause overactive bladder symptoms.

Other bladder irritants include:

Caffeine

Citrus

Spicy foods

Artificial Sweeteners

Chocolate

Alcohol

Tobacco

Dehydration causing concentrated urine

Can radiation play a part in OAB?

Pelvic radiation can affect the architecture of the bladder, causing stiffening and irritation of the bladder lining. This can in turn cause frequent and urgent urination with accidental leakage of urine. Evaluation by a urologist who specializes in complex bladder conditions can help identify the problem and discuss potential treatment options with you.

Is overactive bladder related to age?

Yes, the prevalence of OAB increases with age.

I’ve seen recommendations that people drink 6-8 cups of water per day. How many times would you consider acceptable for a person to urinate when following this recommendation?

Dehydration can cause highly concentrated urine and irritation of your bladder. With proper hydration (6-8 glasses of water spread out throughout the day) you should still expect to go to the bathroom fewer than 8 times per day. Eight or more times per day may suggest that you have OAB.

Can fibroids have an effect on your bladder?

A: Yes, similar to pregnancy, uterine fibroids (which are common in African-American women) can push on your bladder can cause strong and frequent urges to urinate. Depending on the size and location, treatment of these fibroids may reduce your urges to urinate. You should talk with your doctor about treatment options that may be available for you.

If I have urges once per month, could that be considered OAB symptoms?

A: Frequent and strong urges that occur once per month can be related to a number of things such as changes in diet, environment, stress levels, hormonal changes and/or constipation. I recommend looking for patterns or triggers of your symptoms and eliminating those and talking with your doctor about your symptoms.

What is the difference in overactive bowels and incontinence?

Overactive bowels and overactive bladder are different conditions, but can sometimes be associated with each other. Overactive bowels may be associated with a condition called Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and should be evaluated by a gastrointestinal specialist. Overactive bladder can cause strong and frequent urination with or without accidents (incontinence).

Sometimes when I go to the bathroom, I get there before I can pull my pants down and sit and I am already going. Is this part of OAB symptoms?

This sounds like the accidental leakage (incontinence) that can occur as part of OAB. According to a recent survey, 40 percent of women keep these symptoms to themselves. It is important to discuss this with your healthcare provider, who can then refer you to a urologist for further treatment.

You can visit StopStalling.com and Urology Care Foundation for more information about OAB. These sites also include a quiz and qu

Ekene Enemchukwu, MD, MPH is a practicing Female Pelvic Medicine Urologist in Stanford, CA who attended Duke University and received a combined medical degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, General Surgery and Urology training from Vanderbilt University Medical Center and fellowship training from New York University Langone Medical Center. Ekene is also an OAB awareness advocate and health disparities researcher in Urologic conditions (Twitter: @DrEnemchukwu). She is partnering with Astellas as an unpaid consultant to raise awareness about the symptoms associated with overactive bladder as part of the Stop Stalling campaign.

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