Overactive bladder (OAB) and stress urinary incontinence (SUI) are two common lower urinary tract or bladder health problems that can cause incontinence. Incontinence is the leaking of urine that can’t be controlled.
OAB is not a disease. It is the name given to a group of troubling urinary symptoms. About 33 million Americans have OAB – 30 percent of men and 40 percent of women.
Things that raise your chance of having overactive bladder:
Going through menopause (also called “change of life”)
Having prostate problems
Having a health issue that impacts the brain or spinal cord, such as stroke or multiple sclerosis (MS)
The most common symptom is a strong, sudden urge to go the bathroom that you can’t control. Some people leak urine when they feel that urge. One more sign of OAB is the need to go to the bathroom many times during the day and night.
Stress Urinary Incontinence happens when pelvic floor muscles supporting the urethra (the tube that carries urine from the bladder out of the body) are stretched, weakened or damaged. SUI is very common in women – about 1 in 3 have SUI at some time in their lives. SUI is less common in men.
Things that raise your chance of having SUI:
Gender – females are more likely to have SUI
Pregnancy and giving birth
Nerve injuries to the lower back
Pelvic or prostate surgery
People with SUI leak urine while sneezing, laughing or doing other physical movements. Leakage can be a few drops or enough to soak through your clothes.
Overactive Bladder Symptoms
Urgency: The major symptom of OAB is a sudden, strong urge to urinate that you can’t ignore. This “gotta go” feeling makes you afraid you will leak urine if you don’t get to a bathroom right away. You may or may not leak urine after feeling this urge to go.
If you live with OAB, you may also:
Leak urine (incontinence): Sometimes people with OAB also have “urgency incontinence.” This means that urine leaks after you feel the sudden urge to go. Some people may leak just a few drops of urine. Other people experience a sudden gushing of a large amount of urine.
Urinate frequently: You may also need to go to the bathroom many times during the day. The number of times someone urinates differs from person to person. But many experts agree that going to the bathroom more than 8 times in 24 hours is “frequent urination.”
Wake up at night to urinate: Having to wake from sleep to go to the bathroom more than once a night may be another symptom of OAB.
Overactive Bladder Diagnosis
After you talk about your symptoms, your health care provider may do an exam right away. He or she may also schedule a separate exam to see if you have OAB. Your health care provider may refer you to a specialist, such as a urologist, who can perform the exam. Some urologists specialize in incontinence and OAB.
Your health care provider will ask you a number of questions to understand your medical history. This should include information about the symptoms you are having, how long you have had them, and how they are changing your life. A medical history will also include information about your past and current health problems. You should bring a list of over-the-counter and prescription drugs you take. Your health care provider should also ask you about your diet, and about how much and what kinds of liquids you drink during the day.
Your health care provider will examine you to look for something that may be causing your symptoms. In women, the physical exam will likely include your abdomen, the organs in your pelvis, and your rectum. In men, a physical exam will include your abdomen, prostate, and rectum.
You may be asked to keep a bladder diary, where you will note how often you go to the bathroom and any time you leak urine. This will help your health care provider learn more about your day-to-day symptoms.
Overactive Bladder Treatment
There are a number of treatments to help manage OAB. Your health care provider may prescribe treatment to help you manage your symptoms, or you may be referred to a specialist, such as a urologist, for treatment.
Treatment choices for OAB include:
medical and surgical treatments
managing leakage with products and devices
No single treatment is right for everyone. Your health care provider may use 1 treatment alone, or several at the same time. You and your health care provider should talk about what you want from treatment and about each treatment choice.