Overactive bladder (or OAB) often occurs in individuals over the age of 40. According to research from the National Institute on Aging, OAB occurs with a sudden and uncontrollable urge to urinate that causes difficulties stopping urination or total incontinence. It is possible to manage an overactive bladder, however, leaving the condition untreated can lead to embarrassing accidents that impede worklife, social life, and self esteem.
Here are the most successful treatment options for aging patients with overactive bladder:
1. Bladder training
Bladder training entails gradually training the patient to hold their urine in order to strengthen pelvic floor muscles. Patients may be asked to try and hold urination for small periods of time (30 minutes) and work their way up to longer periods (up to 3 hours). Strengthening the pelvic floor of urine sphincter muscles through kegel exercises can also help reduce involuntary bladder contractions and incontinence.
2. Surgical options for overactive bladder
Surgery is usually considered a final resort for patients with OAB that have no success with less invasive treatment techniques. Bladder surgery may entail removing the whole bladder and replacing it with a neobladder or collection bag. The other option is increasing the patient’s bladder storage capacity by taking a piece of the bowel. Patients may require a catheter either temporarily or permanently following bladder surgery.
3. Botox injections
Botox is usually associated with smoothing wrinkles. However, the bacteria derived from botulism is able to paralyze the bladder muscles when injected in tiny doses, and control the sudden urge to urinate. Botox injections last about 5-months until contractions increase once again in the bladder so patients must have ongoing injections.
4. Medication for OAB
Medications such as Detrol, Oxytrol, Sanctura, and etc., treat overactive bladder by reducing involuntary bladder contractions that cause incontinence. These drugs have a dehydrating effect on the bladder as well as the mouth, eyes, and bowel so patients often experience side effects including dry eyes, increased thirst, and constipation.
5. Lifestyle changes and aids
Several lifestyle and behavioral changes can also help patients avoid embarrassing accidents when away from a bathroom. For instance, maintaining a healthy weight can help reduce overactive bladder by decreasing the stress on the bladder. Wearing absorbent pads or undergarments may also prevent accidents. Many OAB patients find that scheduling bathroom breaks can help them train their bladder and manage urgency and incontinence. Lastly, doctors may recommend intermittent catheterization via catheter to help periodically empty and train the bladder to get used to emptying completely.