Bladder control problems are actually very common, and almost half of all women leak urine at some point in their lives.1 It can have a significant impact on a woman’s quality of life, causing emotional distress, discomfort and preventing her from living her life to the fullest.
There are different types of urinary incontinence. The most common types are stress urinary incontinence (SUI), when coughing, sneezing or physical activity causes urine to leak, and urge incontinence or overactive bladder (OAB), when someone has a strong need to urinate and may leak before making it to the bathroom.1 In many cases, women will experience both OAB and SUI at the same time, known as “mixed incontinence.” The causes of OAB vary and there are often risk factors that make women more or less likely to experience bladder leakage.2
- Neurological disorders, such as stroke and multiple sclerosis
- Medications that require large fluid intake, causing rapid urine production
- Acute urinary tract infections
- Tumors or bladder stones
- Incomplete bladder emptying during trips to the bathroom
There may be other causes of OAB that your doctor could discuss with you.
- Age: your risk of experiencing OAB increases as you get older. This is sometimes due to a person’s risk of developing other conditions that affect the bladder, or declining cognitive function which makes it more difficult to recognize the urge to urinate.
- Childbirth: weak pelvic floor muscles caused by pregnancy and childbirth make OAB more common in women
- Menopause: like childbirth, menopause can also be accompanied by weakening of the pelvic floor muscles, making women more susceptible to bladder leaks
- Obesity: being overweight can make increase your risk of developing OAB and other diseases like diabetes that can exacerbate bladder control issues
OAB can be recognized by the following symptoms:1,2
- Sudden urge to urinate that is difficult to control
- Urge incontinence – the involuntary loss of urine immediately following the urgent need to urinate
- Frequent urination – urinating more than eight times in a day
- Nocturia – awaking two or more times during the night to urinate
It is common for women with OAB to have mixed incontinence, which means they also experience symptoms of stress urinary incontinence (SUI). For these women, leakage is also a result of coughing, sneezing, or exert pressure on abdominal muscles, which are symptoms specific to SUI.
OAB may be common, but that doesn’t mean you have to live with it. If your bladder habits are impacting your daily life, ask your doctor about diagnostic testing and treatment options. Some diagnostic tests may include:1,2
- Physical exam focusing on abdomen and genitals
- Urine sample: a test for infection or traces of blood
- Neurological exam: a test for sensory issues or abnormal refluxes
- Urodynamic test: a doctor will use an ultrasound scan of the bladder or a thin tube catheter through the urethra to assess the function of your bladder and its ability to empty.
- National Institutes of Health. Bladder Control Problems. Symptoms and Causes. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/urologic-diseases/bladder-control-problems/symptoms-causes. Accessed January 2019.
- Mayo Clinic. Overactive Bladder. Symptoms and Causes. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/overactive-bladder/symptoms-causes/syc-20355715. Accessed January 2019
- Mayo Clinic. Overactive Bladder. Diagnosis and Treatment. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/overactive-bladder/symptoms-causes/syc-20355715. Accessed January 2019
- National Institutes of Health. Bladder Control Problems. Treatment. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/urologic-diseases/bladder-control-problems/treatment. Accessed January 2019.
- The Simon Foundation. PTNS. https://simonfoundation.org/ptns/. Accessed April 2019