If you’re suffering from over active bladder (OAB), you’re not alone. Millions of women struggle with urinary urgency, frequency and leakage. You may feel strong, sudden, uncomfortable urges to urinate immediately. Or you might go to the bathroom more than eight times in 24 hours. Nocturia may interfere with your sleep if you urinate two or more times per night. Like 40 percent of OAB patients, you also may experience urge incontinence, the involuntary loss of urine.
Besides being inconvenient, OAB has an adverse effect on your mental and emotional health, sleep and quality of life. Needing to be near a bathroom at a moment’s notice has countless drawbacks. You may dread long business meetings so much that you change jobs or quit working all together. In your private life, you may turn down social engagement invitations, drop out of clubs and sports, avoid road trips and vacations and even skip sex out of embarrassment.
Having OAB doesn’t mean you should become a recluse. Fortunately, ongoing research is making new discoveries and devising novel treatment approaches to help you cope with this disruptive condition.
How Your Urinary Control System Functions
For good bladder control, multiple muscles must work together so you urinate only when you intend. Your pelvic floor muscles support your bladder muscle, uterus and rectum. The two main jobs of your bladder are to store urine and empty it at appropriate times. It relaxes during the holding phase while tightened sphincter and pelvic muscles prevent leaks. To empty urine, your bladder contracts while your internal and external sphincter muscles relax to open your urethra.
Nerves signal your brain when your bladder is full, which triggers your urge to go to the bathroom. Your brain sends signals through your nerves so your bladder will contract into a funnel shape to expel urine. OAB symptoms occur when your bladder spasms are too frequently instead of relaxing during storage phases.
Bacteria May Be the OAB Culprit
A new Loyola University Health System study revealed that bladder bacteria in women with overactive bladder are different from the types healthy women have. Besides debunking the standard myth that human urine is sterile, researchers plan to augment their discovery by identifying harmful and helpful bacteria. According to co-investigator Linda Brubaker, M.D., M.S., Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine (SSOM) dean, this research sets the stage for exciting new treatment possibilities.
This study evaluated urine specimens from 90 women with and without OAB symptoms. After collecting each urine sample through a catheter, researchers analyzed it with an expanded quantitative urine culture (EQUC) technique. This more comprehensive process allowed them to find bacteria that standard urinary tract diagnostic cultures can’t identify.
“The presence of certain bacteria in women with overactive bladder may contribute to OAB symptoms,” said lead investigator Evann Hilt, a second-year master’s student at Loyola University Chicago. “Further research is needed to determine if these bacterial differences are clinically relevant for the millions of women with OAB and the doctors who treat them.”
Loyola researchers presented their findings at the 114th General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology in Boston, Massachusetts on May 18. The next steps for this team are to distinguish helpful bladder bacteria from harmful types that cause OAB symptoms. The colleagues also will study how these bacteria interact with each other and the patient. Co-investigator Alan Wolfe, Ph.D., SSOM professor of Microbiology and Immunology, notes that all the discoveries will help doctors identify at-risk women better and treat them more effectively.
This research complements a major international undertaking to identify the healthy human body’s core bacterial composition. The goal is to correlate specific diseases with bacterial communities’ composition changes in and on the body.
Pumpkin Seed and Soy Germ Extracts Bring Relief
Another recent study showed that a blend of water-soluble pumpkin seed and soy germ extracts reduced overactive bladder symptoms in women. The Journal of Functional Foods published the placebo-controlled, randomized clinical trial findings. Researchers tested the new remedy on some of the study’s 120 women from 35 to 70 years old suffering from OAB-related voiding dysfunction. Participants took 500 milligrams of Go-Less, a proprietary product, or placebo tablets twice a day during a 12-week period.
Women in the Go-Less group reported a significant decrease in their daily average urination frequency. Their average urgency scores, nocturnal frequency and other overactive bladder symptoms also dropped substantially. The researchers concluded that the Go-Less pumpkin seed and soy germ extract combination is a natural OAB alternative that relieves symptoms and improves quality of life.
Traditional Medications Remain Standard OAB Treatment
If you think you have overactive bladder, see your doctor or urologist immediately. You may need an antibiotic for a urinary tract infection (UTI) instead. Without prompt treatment, a UTI can lead to a kidney infection and spread to your bloodstream, causing sepsis.
When you have OAB, a prescription can relieve your symptoms while protecting you from further medical complications. Anticholinergics relax your bladder to prevent contractions that trigger your urge to go. The most commonly prescribed medications in this class include Tolterodine LA (the generic for Detrol LA), Ditropan (Oxybutynin), Enablex (Darifenacin), Sanctura XR (Trospium Chloride XR) and Vesicare(Solifenacin). Don’t suffer through OAB alone when proper medical treatment can take your focus off your bathroom habits so you can enjoy a full life again.