If you’re constantly wondering, “Why do I have to pee every few minutes?”, you might have an overactive bladder problem. Here’s what to know about that frequent urge to pee and the available treatments for the condition.
What is an overactive bladder?
Overactive bladder (OAB) is a condition that’s characterised by a frequent urge to pee that you can’t control. This can lead to involuntary loss of urine.
As fluids build in your bladder, nerve signals from your bladder to your brain usually trigger your pelvic floor muscles to relax. This allows your bladder to contract and push out urine. However, if you have OAB, the muscles involuntarily contract, even when your bladder isn’t full.
Although it’s more commonly seen in women and the elderly, men and younger people can have overactive bladder as well.
What causes OAB?
There are many possible causes of OAB, including:
- neurological disorders such as stroke;
- abnormalities in the bladder, such as tumours or bladder stones;
- excessive caffeine or alcohol intake;
- weak pelvic floor muscles (particularly common after pregnancy and childbirth, as the pelvic floor muscles stretch and weaken); and
- hormonal changes during menopause.
Symptoms of OAB
Symptoms of OAB include a sudden urge to pee, the involuntary loss of urine (urgency incontinence), frequent urination (more than eight times in a day) and nocturia (waking up two or more times in the night to urinate). Of course, these symptoms normally result in a significant disruption to daily work and life.
So, if you’re always asking yourself that “why am I peeing so much?” question, OAB could be your answer.
How do I know if it’s overactive bladder or UTI?
If you’re wondering if you’re experiencing overactive bladder or UTI, you’re not alone. The two can easily be confused, as the sudden urge to pee is common in both overactive bladder and UTI.
However, other UTI symptoms typically include pain and burning sensation during urination, cloudy looking urine, blood in the urine and pelvic pain.
So if you’re experiencing a frequent urge to pee, but don’t have any other symptoms like discomfort while urinating, you may be experiencing OAB rather than a UTI. Only a doctor can make the correct diagnosis.
How can I stop my overactive bladder?
Dr Tricia Kuo is a urologist who specialises in women’s urology. At Urohealth Medical Clinic, she treats patients with a range of female urology conditions such as urinary incontinence and overactive bladder.
She says the diagnosis of OAB is made only after excluding other similar conditions. A urine sample may be sent for testing to exclude infection, traces of blood in urine or other abnormalities. The doctor may also perform an ultrasound to check if there is leftover urine in your bladder after you pee.
Additionally, a Uroflow test to measure the urine flow rate may also be required, says Dr Kuo.
Overactive bladder treatment options
According to Dr Kuo, overactive bladder treatment normally includes medication to relax the bladder, and minimally invasive interventional therapies such as Botulinum toxin type A (Botox) injections and different electrical nerve stimulation techniques.
One of these techniques is something called Percutaneous Tibial Nerve Stimulation (PTNS), which, she says is similar to acupuncture. It’s minimally invasive and can be done in-clinic. “A needle electrode is inserted into the skin near the ankle to stimulate a specific nerve that transmits signals to the bladder. With a small electrical current, the muscles controlling the bladder can be regulated.”
Dr Kuo has seen great results with Sacral Neuromodulation (SNM), too. This involves electrical stimulation of the sacral nerves via an implantable neuro stimulator (like a pacemaker); the device regulates the nerves that supply the bladder, bowels, urinary and anal sphincters and pelvic floor muscles. The intensity and frequency of the pulses can be modified by both the physician and the patient through an external programmable device.
Surgery to increase bladder capacity should be considered as a last resort, says Dr Kuo. “This involves using pieces of the bowel to replace a portion of your bladder. However, it’s only recommended in cases of severe urge incontinence that has failed to respond to other conservative treatments for overactive bladder,” she adds.
Urohealth Medical Clinic
#05-26 Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital,
38 Irrawaddy Road | 6873 3800
Mount Alvernia Medical Centre D
#06-67 Mount Alvernia Medical Centre D,
820 Thomson Road | 6264 7588
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