Up to 1 in 6 people over 40 years have an overactive bladder (OAB). Although most cases can be cured or significantly improved with treatment most sufferers do not seek help.
An overactive (or unstable) bladder contracts uncontrollably at the wrong time. This may cause very frequent urination (frequency) or a sudden urge to pass urine (urgency). This can lead to leakage (urge incontinence) if a toilet is not handy.
Sufferers may avoid activities such as going to the movies, or shop only at certain stores where they know the location of toilets.
OAB is more common and severe in women and with advancing age, causing loss of control.
How is OAB treated?
Bladder retraining is usually tried first and is successful in a majority of cases. This begins with keeping a diary of your fluid intake and toilet visits to identify your current habits. Then you try to delay passing urine when the urge occurs, gradually increasing the time between bladder emptying. This technique trains the bladder to hold on for longer.
Medication to relax the bladder can also be very effective, especially when combined with bladder training. Clinical trials have shown that it reduces frequency, urgency and urge incontinence in most cases.
Side-effects vary with the drug used and include dry mouth, constipation, blurred vision and headache. These symptoms may be mild and lessen over time.
Surgery can be used for rare cases which do not respond to these treatments.
Your bladder problems are important and can be treated. Please speak to your doctor. You can also ring the free National Continence Helpline on 1800 33 00 66 or visit http://www.contfound.org.au/.
Please note this information was correct at time of printing.
For up to date information, speak to your doctor.