Overactive Bladder Treatment Strategies
by Senior Editor
If you are among the 30% of men or 40% of women in the United States who have a frequent and/or urgent need to go , youre probably wondering if this is just life now: planning your activities around the nearest bathroom. And while OAB can have many causes, from a neurological condition to enlarged prostate, and even pelvic-muscle changes from pregnancy and childbirth, its very likely theres a treatment out there that can ease your symptoms. Lets talk medically backed OAB treatment options first, then well cover some common complementary therapies, too.
A Guide To Using Herbal Remedies For Bladder Control
According to research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 75% of people with incontinence have turned to a natural complementary treatment at some point. Relief from an overactive bladder can surprisingly be found in natures fields and meadows.
The World Health Organization estimates that 80% of the worlds population presently uses herbal medicine for some aspect of primary health care. The use of herbs in reducing symptoms and illness has been documented for thousands of years. Each individual herb can provide multiple medicinal benefits. Marshmallow root, for example, has been proven to soothe irritated mucous linings, including that of the urinary tract and can help reduce irritations and inflammations. The herbs corn silk and Buchu also have similar properties and can soothe irritation. The herbs goldenrod, nettle and cleavers have also been proven to have urinary tonic properties that are effective in clearing residual urine in the bladder. A common effective herb used in men with prostate-related overflow incontinence is sawed palmetto, as it helps to reduce the prostate size and to clear residual urine from the bladder. Herbal treatments are an increasingly popular alternative for treating an overactive bladder. Often, naturopathic doctors recommend herbal remedies to target underlying processes that may contribute to an overactive bladder, including inflammation and oxidative stress.
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Botox For An Overactive Bladder
Although not commonly used, Botox is a handy muscle relaxer for a variety of conditions, including an overactive bladder. The compound is injected right into the bladder, and patients can experience fewer uncomfortable contractions and increased bladder capacity for up to a year after the injection has taken place.
However, Botox isnt without its dangers. Some patients find that after the procedure they retain urine too much, and experience pain and complications . For these reasons, Botox for overactive bladder treatment is only considered for certain people.
Losing Weight May Help To Improve Your Bladder Control
Excess weight puts extra stress on your pelvic floor muscles and contributes to an overactive bladder and loss of bladder control. If you can lose even a small amount of weight, it will help with bladder control.
The best weight loss plans are always those that set realistic goals combined with healthy eating habits and physical activity. Fad diets, although often successful short-term, rarely achieve sustainable weight loss, because once you tire of the diet, you often revert to ingrained unhealthy eating habits.
Check out our Obesity and Weight Loss guide for more information.
Cut Back On These Bladder Irritants
Just this evening, I realized my bladder was feeling much more irritated than usual. Then, I thought back to what I’d just eaten: Thai curry and a smoothie containing orange juice. Curry, oranges, and juice are all on Urology San Antonio’s list of bladder irritants. “Studies show that spicy foods can sometimes be an irritant to the lining of the bladder,” says Ramin. “Fare like spicy chili, chili peppers, or horseradish are examples of foods that can cause such irritation. Likewise, highly acidic foods can trigger a similar response.”
It may not be realistic for you to give up all foods that could irritate your bladder, but you can start to take note of which foods are worst for you, and avoid those when you can .
And a word to the wise: People often say you should drink cranberry juice for bladder health, but that’s to ward off UTIs. When it comes to bladder irritation, cranberry juice along with most kinds of juice could have the opposite effect you want. “Due to its high acidity, it can actually worsen the condition,” says Ramin.
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Take Charge: Seek Your Doctors Advice
Approximately 80% of those affected by urinary incontinence can be cured or improved, yet only one in 12 people with incontinence issues seek help. Talk to your doctor about your bladder control as it can dramatically improve your lifestyle.
Your doctor can investigate and establish a cause for your overactive bladder. Treatment can then be tailored to this cause and may involve medications, bladder retraining, pelvic floor exercises, absorbent products, surgery, or combinations of these options.
Plus, consider joining the Drugs.com Overactive Bladder Support Group. Here, you can connect with people with similar questions and concerns, share your experiences, and keep up with the latest new drug approvals, ongoing research, and medical news.
Herbal Remedies For Overactive Bladder
If youâre curious about herbal remedies for overactive bladder, youâre hardly alone. The CDC says about 75% of people with the condition have turned to a complementary treatment at some point.
Why do people go natural? Because their medical treatments donât work, or they may have unpleasant side effects, says Bilal Chughtai, MD, an assistant professor of urology at Weill Cornell Medical College.
But are herbal treatments worth it? Itâs hard to know for sure. âThereâs very little scientific research on the topic,â says Linda Brubaker, MD, a professor at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine. “Without quality studies, doctors canât say if these remedies work, or if theyâre safe to use — either alone or with other medications.â
Chughtai, who studies how herbs affect the urinary tract, agrees. âWeâre still in the very early stages of uncovering how herbs may treat overactive bladder,â he says.
But even without solid proof that they work, a number of these remedies are on the market. Some have been used to treat OAB for centuries.
Hereâs what we know about 10 common herbal treatments.
Gosha-jinki-gan: This blend of 10 herbs is one of the most studied products. Japanese researchers found that people who took it daily for 8 weeks went to the bathroom less. Other studies confirm that it lowers the urge and helps with incontinence. Chughtai says it may work by stopping nerve signals to the bladder.
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Percutaneous Tibial Nerve Stimulation
This technique, which is similar to acupuncture, has shown promise in the treatment of OAB, especially among those who couldnât tolerate medicine or werenât helped by it. During the 30-minute session, a health care professional inserts a thin needle into a nerve at your ankle. The needle is connected to a device that sends a mild electrical current to the nerve. Most experts recommend one session a week for 12 weeks.
Specific Antidepressants May Suppress Symptoms
Specific antidepressants such as Tofranil, Tyramine and Norfranil may help to suppress overactive bladder symptoms. Which one your doctor chooses to prescribe will depend on your particular symptoms.
For example, the SSRI class of antidepressants works better for stress incontinence than for urge incontinence, although its not clear how it helps. Alternatively, tricyclic antidepressants are known to have anticholinergic side effects, which relax the bladder muscle and cause the muscles of the bladder neck to contract.
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Herbs The Word: Help For Overactive Bladder
, a condition that causes a sudden urge to urinate, is most commonly treated with prescription medications to control bladder muscles. However, herbal remedies are becoming more common as natural treatment options.
You may see herbs as natural ways to prevent bladder problems, but they arent always safe and effective.
The Food and Drug Administration regulates herbs as dietary supplements but doesnt approve any herbs as medications to treat specific illnesses or medical conditions.
Though these herbs do show some promise in helping to treat OAB, you should always consult your healthcare provider before starting any complementary treatments.
Avoid Taking Bladder Irritants
Some dietary moderations in your daily routine can have a major impact on bladder control. There are certain foods that are responsible for better bladder function, but there are many other food items that can irritate the bladder and should be avoided in your diet plan. A person who has an overactive bladder should avoid taking bladder irritants such as alcohol, artificial sweeteners, chocolates, citrus fruits, soda, spicy foods and vinegar. If you cut down these triggers from your daily diet, there will be a significant improvement in the symptoms of this condition.
Also Check: How To Control Bladder Leakage
Natural Remedies For Overactive Bladder
Whether you have been struggling with overactive bladder for a few months or a few decades, finding a solution to ease your need to go to the washroom is a concern. What works for your mother, brother, or colleague might not have any success for you.
The tricky thing about OAB is that it is not a specific diagnosis, rather it is a set of one to four symptoms: urgency, frequency, urge incontinence and nocturia. You may struggle with one or all of them if you have OAB.
If you struggle with OAB, then you likely know how many different remedies and tips and tricks there are out there to help people like us. Sometimes it is the simple things that can make an enormous difference. Other times, it is not so simple, and it can feel very defeating.
However, the more informed we are, the more we are able to make good choices and perhaps find some more interesting and alternative ways of combating OAB.
The Three Stages Of Oab Treatment
First, you need to know that the goal of OAB treatment is to reduce your symptoms, not to eliminate them all together, says Maude Carmel, M.D., an associate professor of urology at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, TX. To set expectations, Dr. Carmel tells her patients: If you have OAB, I can make you better, but not cure you. That said, symptom reduction can mean significantly fewer trips to the bathroom. The American Urological Association recommends a three-line treatment strategy to help: behavioral changes first, medications second, and finally neural regulation therapies.
Recommended Reading: How To Train Bladder To Hold More Urine
Medical Treatments For An Overactive Bladder
Depending on how successful they were and the strength of your condition, your doctor may recommend that you continue with the above treatments and return for another check-up after a specific period of time.
However, if they decide, usually in consultation with the patient, that medical treatment may be beneficial or necessary, they may choose to prescribe one or multiple medical treatments, some of which are detailed below.
Drugs And Surgeries May Help Incontinence But There Are Other Options
Few people want to talk about incontinence, but according to the National Association for Continence, nearly 25 million Americans struggle with bladder control. Of those, 75 to 80% are women.
There are drugs and surgeries that may help incontinence, depending on the cause of the problem, but there are other options. Exercises, lifestyle changes, and possibly even some supplements may help. Here are 12 to consider.
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How To Know You Have Overactive Bladder
It is important to confirm if you have an overactive bladder or not because increase in frequency can also be because of increase in liquid diet. Having an overactive bladder has these symptoms-
- Needing to go to bathroom more than normal
- Not being able to hold urine
- Experiencing incontinence while urinating
- Need of urinating several times throughout the night
Keeping A Bladder Diary May Help Identify Triggers
Keeping a diary may sound time consuming, but it will help both you and your doctor identify any triggers for your overactive bladder and establish just how often you visit the bathroom each day.
How should you keep a diary for your overactive bladder?
- Document exactly what kind of fluids you drink and their volume.
- Write down the type and quantity of food you eat.
- Record the number of trips to the bathroom and rate your trips as successful or not.
- Indicate what you were doing when leakage or the urge to urinate occurred
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And Throw A Bit Of Vitamin D In There As Well
Something else that you can do to your diet is throw in a bit of Vitamin D.
While the primary use of this vitamin has been to promote calcium intake over the years, some studies have shown that it has positive effects on the bladder as well.
Its worth mentioning that the daily requirement of vitamin D is 600 IU and most people fall well short of this.
Considering the fact that studies have specifically targeted vitamin D in relation to incontinence issues, it might be time to fine-tune your diet.
What Causes An Overactive Bladder
Your kidneys produce urine, and the urine later drains into your bladder. As you urinate, the urine further passes through an opening at the bottom of your bladder and then flows out of your body through the urethra. In women, the urethra is located right above the vagina, whereas, in men, the urethra opens at the tip of the penis.
This entire process of urination is controlled by nerve signals. When your bladder is filled, your brain receives signals to trigger the urge to urinate. As you urinate, your brain again receives signals to relax the muscles of your pelvic floor as well as the urethra to help pass the urine. Simultaneously, your bladder tightens to push the urine out.
In the case of an overactive bladder, the contraction of the bladder occurs involuntarily, even when the volume of urine inside is relatively low. This action causes a sudden urge to pee.
While the exact cause of this occurrence is yet to be found, the following are some factors that could be contributing to the symptoms of an overactive bladder:
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How To Prevent And Heal A Leaky Bladder
As a long time physician, I have always lived by the rule that doctors should have their patients use natural healing methods prior to invasive measures.
I’ve had so many stories of patients who come to me thinking they need surgery for an organ prolapse or incontinence. However, once I put them on natural hormones for a few weeks as a part of a pre-surgery preparation they noticed that they no longer need the surgery!
As I always say: DO THE NATURAL STUFF FIRST!
Below are some common treatments used to treat menopausal symptoms including urinary leakage:
Cut Back On Diuretics Like Caffeine And Alcohol
Caffeine and alcohol are both double trouble, says Ramin. They’re diuretics and they stimulate bladder function. “If you suffer from urinary incontinence, one of your worst enemies can be caffeinated beverages,” he says. “Though it can be much easier said than done, limiting or eliminating caffeine altogether has been known to be successful in diminishing and resolving issues of urinary incontinence in some women.”
Similarly, he adds, “alcoholic beverages act as bladder stimulants and diuretics in most people. So when you have a problem with urinary continence, consuming even slight amounts of alcohol can make matters worse.”
If you can’t function without your daily cup of coffee, try to keep it to the morning so you’re not getting up to pee at night. And if you like having a glass of wine to wind down, at least limit it to one and keep it as far from bedtime as possible. Or, just take a break from caffeine or alcohol for a week or two, and see if the benefits you notice are worth it.
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Eat And Drink With Your Bladder In Mind:
Adopting a bladder-friendly diet will go a long way in easing the symptoms of an overactive bladder. This means avoiding foods that make your urine acidic because acid will further irritate your bladder. Do your best to saying no to caffeine, alcohol, citrus, carbonated beverages and spicy foods.
If you wake up a lot needing to go to the restroom, then make sure you are getting plenty of fluids during the day and limit drinking fluids closer towards before bedtime. This may help reduce the need to urinate frequently at night.
Behavior: Sweat More Lose More
If youve been slipping on your new years diet and exercise resolutions, the promise of improved OAB symptoms might be the kick-in-the-pants you need. A study in the Open Access Journal of Urology found that weight loss of 5%-10% had an efficacy in women similar to that of other nonsurgical urinary incontinence treatments. Eating a balanced diet is key, but exercise is, too, says Diego Illanes, M.D., chief of urogynecology at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, MA. Physical activity is proven to stimulate the central nervous system and causes weight reduction, he says. This translates to a healthy bladder.
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What Are Symptoms Of An Overactive Bladder
Overactive bladder refers to a group of urinary symptoms that include:
- Urinary urgency with or without urinary incontinence: Strong and sudden need to urinate that may cause bladder discomfort. Urinary incontinence refers to a lack of control over urination. Not all people with urinary urgency have incontinence. Those who have incontinence complain of uncontrolled leakage of urine.
- Urinary frequency: Urinating more often than usual.
- Nocturia: Increased need to urinate at night.
OAB is fairly common, affecting about 40% of women and 30% of men in the United States. Symptoms can be managed with medical treatment, although sometimes surgery may be necessary.