Overactive bladder (OAB) is a chronic condition with symptoms that can disrupt your normal activaities during the day and disrupt your sleep at night. It can lead to discomfort, depression, and emotional distress. While the condition is often treatable, finding the right treatment can take time.
In the meantime, you may experience unpleasant symptoms — and the consequences of those symptoms. For most people, it’s the inconvenience of these symptoms and not the symptoms themselves that make OAB such a problem.
Symptoms of OAB can have a significant effect on your daily life. These symptoms and the coping strategies to manage them can disrupt normal routines at home, at work, and in social settings. From having to interrupt conversations to ducking out of meetings, OAB has a way of making you feel rude or disruptive when you have no choice. You may begin planning your outings around your OAB. While ensuring there are nearby restrooms wherever you are is smart, it can also inhibit your activities.
There have been studies and surveys that have determined OAB can have a negative impact on your sex life. Some people with OAB, especially women, avoid sex out of fear that they will have leakage. Interrupting sex to run to the bathroom can also inhibit sexual satisfaction. Since urinary issues and sexual organs are so closely linked, OAB is sometimes related to the reproductive organs and affects general sexual function.
Urinary urgency, frequent urination, or chronic fatigue due to sleep disruption can interfere with work and daily routines. It can also lead to lower productivity at work and at home when you have to interrupt what you’re doing to use the bathroom.
People living with OAB often avoid leaving the house out of fear of a flare-up in symptoms, especially urge incontinence. This could cause them to miss out on important or fun events that are an essential part of a healthy lifestyle. Someone who once got great joy out of social events may find themselves more isolated and homebound out of fear and discomfort.
Nocturia is a common symptom of OAB. It’s defined as the need to get out of bed two or more times at night to urinate. It can cause chronic fatigue and lack of energy that may worsen other OAB complications. Each time the urge to urinate interrupts your night you have to struggle to return to the deep and most restful stages of sleep. This can lead to fatigue.
A lower quality of life can have emotional effects on people with OAB. The self-imposed isolation and discomfort can limit beneficial relationships and cause people to feel depressed. According to the Mayo Clinic, there’s an association between depression and OAB symptoms.
If an infection causes your OAB, failure to treat it can lead to complications. Untreated urinary tract infections (UTIs) can lead to bladder infections. They can also increase the risk of more UTIs in the future.
There’s a misconception that urinary incontinence won’t occur if a person with OAB severely limits their fluid intake. In fact, not drinking enough fluids can cause distress on the bladder and worsen OAB symptoms. Your doctor can help you find a balance between hydration and worsening symptoms.
Studies have found that urgency and incontinence significantly increase the risk of recurrent falls and fractures in older adults. Risk of falling and fear of falling increase with OAB. This is largely because people with OAB may rush to the restroom, increasing the risk of an accident.
A variety of treatment options are available to address OAB. They can include:
- dietary changes, such as avoiding caffeinated beverages, tomato-based foods, citrus fruit, and other irritants
- herbs and supplements, such as magnesium hydroxide
- exercises, such as Kegel exercises and bladder training
- oral medications, including oxybutynin (Ditropan XL) and tolterodine (Detrol, Detrol LA)
- Botox injections
- the patch
- different forms of surgery, from nerve stimulation to bladder removal
Talk to your doctor to determine what’s best for you.