Overactive bladder

Overactive bladder

What is an overactive bladder?

An overactive bladder is characterised by a sudden, strong urge for urination. This means that an urgent need to pee can occur at any time, and this urge is very difficult to suppress. It is often accompanied by frequent urination equalling to 8-10 times a day and during night as well as possible involuntary urination.

The condition is fairly frequent, and it is estimated by the NHS that between 3-6 million people in the UK have some degree of urination issues. However, some people tend to forget to consult their physician as it is common to urinate during the night and generally during the day, making it difficult for people to distinguish the disease from the normal condition.  


What are the symptoms?

What causes the symptoms is not entirely clear, but the number of cases increase with age. The symptoms of an overactive bladder include:

  • Strong urination where the urge to pee is immediate

  • Having to pee for up to about 12 times per day

  • Having to wake up at least once during the night to pee


What are the causes?

The causes of an overactive bladder are many, but it is mostly due to a disease in the kidney-bladder system or in nervous system. For example, signals from the bladder to the brain upon filling the bladder can be enhanced or initiated by less filling than usual. This then causes the urination reflex to begin, causing the bladder to contract involuntarily. The reason for this change is unknown. An overactive bladder may also be due to ‘cystitis’ (inflammation of the bladder).

If you thereby feel a strong urge to urinate both day and night you should consult your physician. The physician will most often take a blood sample to examine if the kidney is damaged in any way, and afterwards a urine sample will be taken to ensure that there is no urinary tract infection caused by bacteria. Additionally, the physician will also go over a fluid and urination schedule, which enables you to monitor your exact daily consumption of fluid, and how this is related to the amount of urine that you pass during each day and night. The examinations are performed at your own general practitioner.


What are the treatments?

The aim of the treatment is to treat and cure and/or subdue the symptoms related to the condition, but the current medicine is used to relieve the symptoms. An overactive bladder is treated depending on the underlying cause of the condition. For many, it is enough to receive the diagnose and know that it is not dangerous. However, if you are troubled by severe symptoms, you should find a solution in cooperation with your physician. Medication wise, the so-called ‘muscarinic-receptor-antagonists’ or ‘beta-3-adrenoceptor-antagonists’ that block the nerve effect in the urinary bladder when it fills are used. This way, the urinary urge is reduced. Other ways in which you can treat a severely overactive bladder without any medication is by injecting ‘botulinum toxin’, or botox, into the bladder muscle to paralyse it for a period of time. However, this procedure is only used in case of severe symptoms.

If you do not believe you suffer from severe symptoms but still experience a frequent urge to pee, you can ease the symptoms yourself. You can train your bladder to hold the water back for a longer period of time by not going to the toilet as soon as you feel the urge. You can also benefit from using a schedule where you note how often you go to the bathroom, and from there set yourself a goal of increasing the time in between. Afterwards, pelvic floor exercises can be beneficial.

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