Overactive Bladder: A Candid Consult

Overactive bladder (OAB) is a bladder condition that can affect patients’ personal and social lives. While OAB is a relatively common condition, most of those who are diagnosed have suffered in silence for far too long before seeking help from a specialist. Often undiagnosed or ignored or altogether, OAB can worsen if not detected.

Learn more from Dr. Jose Maceda about what symptoms to look out for and treatment options available.

Q: What are the common symptoms of OAB?

Overactive bladder affects patients in three ways:

  1. Sudden and powerful urges to rush to the bathroom
  2. Frequent urination
  3. Incontinence, because the urge to empty the bladder was too quick or too strong before one can make it to the bathroom

Q: Is it a common problem?

Overactive bladder is a very common bladder condition. OAB occurs in an estimated 1 in 10 Americans, which is comparable to those diagnosed with other relatively common conditions, such as diabetes. Additionally, nearly one third of women in the US experience incontinence or OAB symptoms.

Q: Does OAB affect men and women equally?

While overactive bladder affects both men and women, a greater number of women report more bothersome symptoms than men.

Q: What causes OAB?

In 90% of individuals there is no identifiable cause for overactive bladder. The remaining 10% have a neurologic condition such as multiple sclerosis, stroke, spinal cord injury. The most common risk factors are women who have vaginal deliveries, advanced age and menopause. There is also increasing evidence that genetics may play a role for some individuals.

Q: Is OAB just a part of aging?

Although 35% of women assume OAB is a natural part of aging, it affects women of all age groups. For example, a National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey reported that 17% of women ages 40 to 59 deal with urinary incontinence problems, as do 23% of women ages 60 to 79. Actual numbers may be even higher, since so many women don’t talk about their symptoms. It’s important to note that urinary frequency or incontinence should be addressed when it starts to affect quality of life. You shouldn’t need to wear pads every day, change clothes daily or empty your bladder frequently to minimize incontinence episodes.

Q: How is it different than other types of incontinence?

Outside of OAB, the other common type of incontinence is called stress incontinence. Stress incontinence results in loss of urine due to activity (cough, laughing, exercise) but there is no strong urge to void at the time. In fact, roughly one third of women with incontinence have mixed incontinence (both urge and stress incontinence).

Q: Can I do kegels at home without seeing a specialist?

While kegels are common treatment option, it’s crucial to be sure you are doing the exercise correctly. A recent study that assessed women performing Kegel exercises discovered that just under half were performing them properly. About 25% of women did the exact opposite maneuver and were bearing down instead of contracting. If you’ve tried Kegels without results, it’s possible the muscles were not contracted correctly. There are definite benefits to retraining these muscles, and a physical therapist or other health care provider can help you do so correctly.

Q: What treatment options are available?

While there is no cure for overactive bladder, the condition can be managed so that it does not cause symptoms that affect your day-to-day life. Treatment options include dietary and fluid changes, kegels, pelvic floor physical therapy, medications, Botox and nerve therapy. Scheduling an appointment with a specialist is your first, best step toward learning which treatment option or options are best suited to managing your unique needs.

Q: What can I do to prevent OAB? 

Some simple ways to prevent developing OAB include:

Overactive Bladder Awareness Infographic


Jose Maceda, MD - Axia Women's Health

Author: Jose Maceda, MD with Axia Women’s Health Urogynecology of King of Prussia

Learn more or request an appointment online:

Axia Women’s Health Urogynecology  | Jose Maceda, MD

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