What Is Overactive Bladder?
Do you ever feel an urgent need to use the restroom? But when you get there, you barely go? Or maybe you feel like you’re going all the time? Or your urges come on so suddenly that you have trouble making it to a toilet in time, resulting in an accidental leak? If any of these scenarios sound like you, you may have Overactive Bladder.
Overactive Bladder, also known simply as OAB, is a common condition that occurs when the signals from the bladder to the brain don’t work properly. This leaves you running to the bathroom unexpectedly, and sometimes even experiencing bladder leaks.
Certain things may often trigger OAB for some people – hearing running water, or even just anticipating the need to urinate can cause a bladder spasm, making you feel like you need to go right now.
Prevalence of Overactive Bladder In Men
An estimated 33 million Americans live with Overactive Bladder, and while women are more susceptible to the condition, it’s likely that 30% of men have OAB. It’s possible this number is even higher, since many men don’t report their symptoms.
What are the symptoms of overactive bladder in men?
The symptoms of OAB are similar for both men and women. The hallmark sign of OAB is the urgent, uncontrollable need to empty bladder. This usually occurs many times through the day, making you feel like you’re constantly going to the bathroom. For those unable to make it to the toilet in time, accidents or leaks may accompany OAB symptoms.
People with OAB may also find it difficulty to completely empty their bladder, have a weak urine stream, or have difficulty starting urination. They may also suffer from needing to use the bathroom multiple times at night, a condition known as nocturia.
Why do men get OAB?
OAB can have many causes. In men, prostate troubles are common culprit. As men age, the prostate can grow, sometimes causing the flow of urine to be disrupted. Enlarged prostate may also be a sign of prostate cancer, so it’s important to get it checked out.
However, prostate issues aren’t the only cause of OAB. Men may also experience an overactive bladder if they suffer from diabetes, obesity, constipation, urinary tract infections, or a neurological condition, such as a spinal cord injury, Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis. Certain medications may also trigger OAB, and even your diet can play a role in aggravating the bladder.
What are the treatment options for OAB? Are there specific treatment options for men?
While OAB is very common in men, it’s not normal, and no one needs to live with the unpleasant symptoms. There are many treatment options available to lessen, or even eliminate OAB symptoms. Many treatment options are the same for men, and for women.
Your doctor may first ask you to make some lifestyle changes, which include altering your diet, adding in exercise, and losing weight. Many foods are known bladder irritants and eliminating them may help reduce symptoms.
Additionally, losing weight, and finding time for regular exercise can help. Strengthening your pelvic floor can be beneficial for treating OAB too. Many conditions can weaken the muscles in your pelvic floor. By doing kegels, you’ll strengthen those muscles and be able to better control urination. (Read our guide for Men’s kegels here.)
You can also retrain your bladder to hold urine for longer in between bathroom visits. Patients with OAB typically feel the urge to empty their bladder before it’s full, but by retraining the bladder, you can “teach” your bladder to fill up before finally giving into urination. Over time, this can be an effective treatment.
There are many medications available to treat OAB, and enlarged prostate. Some prostate medications work by reducing the size of the prostate. Other OAB medications work by calming the bladder muscle to prevent spasms.
It’s important to note that all medications come with pros and cons. Talk to your doctor about what to expect, and don’t be afraid to ask to try something different if you’re experiencing side effects, or if you’re not seeing the improvement you’d like.
Another type of treatment for OAB is nerve stimulation. There are various types of nerve stimulation, but they work by sending an electrical stimulation to the nerves that reach the bladder in order to better control how the bladder functions. Most of these procedures are done in a doctors office, and are non-invasive.
While surgery is not usually performed to treat Overactive Bladder, there are some cases in which surgery may be recommended, especially if your case is severe and other methods listed above have been ineffective. For men this may include removing a portion of the prostate if it is enlarged. Your doctor may also perform surgery to increase the amount your bladder can hold, or reposition the bladder or the urethra.
How to cope.
Living with OAB can be difficult. Simple things you once enjoyed may be difficult to do now and fear of having an accident can cause you to miss out on many of your favorite activities or social gatherings.
The absolute worst thing you could do is to chalk it up to getting older. Yes, it’s true that OAB can be more common as we age, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do anything about it. Find a doctor you feel comfortable with and start the discussion. Being open and honest about your condition can be the key to finding a treatment that works for you. And, in talking to a doctor, you’ll rule out any potentially life-threatening conditions.
Next, if you have no one else to talk to, or if you just don’t want to share this aspect of your life with those close to you, join the NAFC message boards. Our message boards are anonymous and have thousands of people who live with incontinence sharing their stories, frustrations, trials and successes. Sometimes just getting your thoughts and feelings out in the open can do wonders for your emotional state, and the NAFC message boards are filled with caring individuals who know what you’re going through.
Last but not least, don’t give up. Living with OAB is hard, but with all the treatment options available, there’s bound to be one that suits your needs. Don’t give up if something doesn’t work right away. Give it time, and if you still don’t feel like the treatment you’re on is working, ask your doctor to try something different.
Have a question about OAB? Contact NAFC today!