Bladder and reproductive health can be a sensitive subject for many people, especially when it comes to addressing common issues in this area of our bodies. However, the less we speak about our health, the less likely we are to seek help. Many patients continue to live with uncomfortable and inconvenient symptoms that could easily be resolved with a trip to the doctor. This is often the case with individuals who suffer from an overactive bladder.

Because many of us shy away from discussing our bladders, we forget just how many people deal with this condition. In fact, Kelli Miller, M.D. FACOG, a board-certified obstetrics and gynecology doctor at Women First of Louisville says, “Overactive bladder is an incredibly common condition experienced by many women, regardless of age.”

In the U.S. alone, one in three American women suffers from an overactive bladder. While the condition is treatable and rarely physically serious, an overactive bladder can make many women uncomfortable and cause unnecessary embarrassment.

Fortunately, an overactive bladder is easily managed and is one of the conditions Dr. Miller treats most often.

Woman holding both hands over lower abdomen due to discomfortWhat Is an Overactive Bladder?

Overactive bladder is a medical condition characterized by a sudden and uncontrollable urge to urinate. This urge can be difficult to postpone or control. Sometimes, you may experience urinary incontinence, the involuntary leakage of urine. Women with overactive bladder may also experience frequent urination (eight or more times daily). They may wake up during the night to urinate, a condition that is known as nocturia.

In a normal, healthy bladder, urine flows from the kidneys, and nerve signals trigger the urge to urinate. These nerve signals also tell the body to relax the pelvic floor and the urethra muscles to release urine. However, an overactive bladder begins muscle contractions even when the bladder’s urine is low. These contractions are involuntary and can create an urgent need for the restroom.

woman in pain with hand over upper pelvic regionWhat Are the Symptoms of an Overactive Bladder?

The symptoms of an overactive bladder include:

  • A sudden and intense urge to urinate
  • Urinating eight or more times a day or more than once every two hours
  • Waking up during the night to urinate
  • Leakage of urine

These symptoms can significantly affect your quality of life, leading to anxiety, embarrassment, and social isolation. Leigh T., a patient of Dr. Miller’s, says an overactive bladder can be a huge problem “if you’re running from store to store or even at work and you’re going into a meeting.”

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, speaking with your doctor is essential. Treatments are available that can help your overactive bladder.

depressed woman sitting with one hand on her head and the other holding her abdomenWhat Causes an Overactive Bladder?

An overactive bladder occurs when the bladder muscles contract involuntarily, even when the bladder isn’t full. While more women in midlife seem to be afflicted by overactive bladder, the truth is the condition doesn’t discriminate. Overactive bladder affects people of all ages, genders, and backgrounds.

However, certain factors can increase the risk of developing an overactive bladder, including aging, which can cause the bladder muscles to weaken. Women experience overactive bladder more often than men, possibly due to hormonal changes or childbirth-related damage to the pelvic floor.

Overactive bladder can also indicate certain medical conditions, such as bladder stones or neurological disorders like Parkinson’s disease. Diabetes contributes to an overactive bladder, as are other conditions affecting the organ, such as a tumor or bladder stones.

Some medications, such as diuretics, or drugs to treat high blood pressure, can increase the risk of overactive bladder. If you have difficulty walking, this can increase bladder urgency. Or, if you have trouble emptying your bladder, this can lead to the frequent urge to urinate.

Older women and men suffering from declining cognitive health, such as Alzheimer’s disease, develop an overactive bladder. However, it should be noted this condition is not the inevitable result of aging but a condition that can occur as you age.

Finally, some lifestyle factors may increase your risk of developing an overactive bladder. If you smoke, struggle with obesity, or even consume excessive amounts of alcohol or caffeine, you may be more prone to develop an overactive bladder.

How Do Doctors Treat Overactive Bladder?

Treatment can help your overactive bladder. Dr. Miller says, “A treatment that I do a lot for our practice, and our community is something called Botox for the bladder.”

While commonly associated with cosmetic procedures, Botox (Botulinum toxin type A) is also used as a medical treatment to manage the symptoms of an overactive bladder. Dr. Miller says, “We do it here in the office, and it’s very comfortable. It’s not done under any anesthesia. Patients tolerate the treatment very well as the needle is very small.”

Botox works by blocking the release of a chemical called acetylcholine, which triggers the bladder muscle to contract. Botox is injected into the bladder muscle during this treatment, causing it to relax. This treatment reduces the frequency and intensity of contractions that cause overactive bladder symptoms.

The Botox treatment is typically performed under local anesthesia and takes about 30 minutes to complete. The effects of the treatment can last on average 6-8 months. The injections can then be repeated.

Botox for the bladder is typically used after patients no longer respond to other treatments such as:

  • Behavioral modifications such as pelvic floor exercises
  • Medications such as anticholinergics, and beta-3 agonists
  • Lifestyle changes such as reducing caffeine intake or losing weight

Botox for the bladder is generally considered a safe procedure, but like all medical treatments, it can have side effects. Because of this, it’s important to confer with your doctor about all your options before choosing treatment.

What’s Life Like After Treatment for Your Overactive Bladder?

Getting back to a normal life after treatment for your overactive bladder can change everything. Dr. Miller says, “The Botox just relaxes those bladder contractions. It’s been a total game changer and helped patients who struggle with overactive bladder.”

Leigh, who underwent the treatment with Dr. Miller, says, “The biggest thing that I don’t have to do anymore is know where a bathroom is—which is huge.” She also had favorable reviews of the Women First of Louisville team. She says, “Dr. Miller’s team is super delightful. Together they make it such an easy experience without any problems.”

If you’re experiencing the frequent urge to urinate or bladder incontinence, don’t hesitate to call us at 502-891-8700 or request an appointment online.

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