Overactive bladder (OAB)
What is overactive bladder?
Overactive bladder (OAB) is a common bladder problem. Symptoms of overactive bladder include:
- Urinating frequently: eight or more times per day or two or more times per night
- Sudden, strong urges to urinate immediately
- Leaking urine after a sudden, strong urge to urinate
Your everyday routine could be contributing to these spasms without you even knowing it. Foods that are known bladder irritants (such as caffeine and carbonation), medicines (such as diuretics), bladder infections, extra weight pushing on your bladder, and arthritis are all conditions that can affect your everyday voiding schedule.
It’s common for people to believe that overactive bladder is a natural part of aging, but OAB can affect anyone at any age. That is why it is important to talk to your provider when you notice changes in your urination frequency.
Together, you and your provider can discuss treatment options to help you improve and manage your overactive bladder. This may include everyday changes to your routine such as:
- Watching your water intake. Too much or too little water can affect your bladder symptoms. It’s recommended you drink at least six 8-ounce cups of fluid every day, with at least half of that being water.
- Tracking your bowel movements. Constipation can affect your OAB symptoms, so it’s a good idea to talk to your provider before making any significant changes to your eating or drinking habits.
- Strengthening your pelvic floor muscles. Your pelvic floor is made up of muscles that help you to hold urine in your bladder. Over time, age and childbirth can weaken these muscles. You can strengthen these muscles through what are known as Kegel exercises. During these exercises, you repeatedly squeeze, hold, and relax your pelvic floor muscles for several seconds each. While this sounds simple, you may need to consult your provider to ensure you’re working the right muscles.
- Making dietary changes. You and your provider may identify foods in your diet that worsen your symptoms. These may include caffeine, citrus fruits and juices, artificial sweeteners, tomato-based foods, sodas, alcohol, and spicy foods—all known to have the ability to irritate your bladder and force more frequent urination.
Your doctor may also prescribe one of the two types of medications used to treat OAB: antimuscarinics or beta-agonists. These medications reduce your symptoms by helping to calm the bladder muscle and reduce spasms.
Sacral neuromodulation therapy
Sacral neuromodulation, or InterStim™ therapy, is a safe and minimally invasive nerve stimulation treatment for patients with OAB who have not had success treating their symptoms with medication or lifestyle changes.
This therapy involves implanting a small neurostimulator at the back of your hip near your sacral nerve—the nerve responsible for alerting the brain to bladder sensations. The device will then deliver electrical pulses to the sacral nerve to better restore effective communication between the brain and the bladder and help eliminate or reduce bladder control problems.
UI Health Care urologist Elizabeth Takacs, MD, has been awarded an InterStim™ Center of Excellence designation from neurostimulator manufacturer Medtronic. The designation recognizes physicians who demonstrate exemplary use of the InterStim™ system to achieve positive outcomes for patients with symptoms associated with OAB. Takacs is one of only two urologists in Iowa to earn this designation.