Dr. Kevin Piercey is a urologist who has helped many men and women with overactive bladder (OAB). Dr. Piercey, who serves as Assistant Professor in the Department of Surgery at McMaster University and Head of the Urology Service and the Women's Urology Clinic at St. Joseph's Hospital in Hamilton, Ontario, offers his insight and experience to answer your frequently asked questions about OAB.
What is OAB and what causes it?
OAB is a medical condition where a person needs to go to the bathroom more often than usual and may leak urine. It's not entirely clear what causes OAB. In most cases, we don't find a specific cause. However, OAB can sometimes be caused by neurological damage due to conditions such as Parkinson's disease or diabetes. It may also be caused by damage from previous surgery, or from blockage of the urinary tract (the system of organs and tubes involved in the production and elimination of urine from the body).
Does OAB only affect women?
No. OAB affects both men and women.
How can OAB affect my life?
OAB can be inconvenient and embarrassing for both women and men. It affects everything from shopping to sports. People with OAB may avoid social activities, especially if they tend to leak urine. Because OAB sufferers need to go to the washroom so often, it takes time away from their regular activities and disrupts their work. OAB can also interfere with travel and leading an active lifestyle.
What should I do if I think I might have OAB?
If you think you might have OAB, see your family doctor for diagnosis and treatment. If your community has an incontinence clinic, this can also be a good place to start.
What can I do to manage OAB?
Most people can manage their OAB with a combination of lifestyle changes and medications.
Lifestyle changes include:
- cutting back on alcohol and caffeine, which can make OAB worse
- fluid management: controlling what you drink, how much you drink, and when - 4 to 6 eight-ounce glasses of fluid per day is plenty for most people, and too much fluid in the evening can lead to frequent night time washroom visits
- Kegel exercises to help with bladder control
Keeping a voiding diary (a record of how much you eat, drink, and pee) for 2 to 3 days can help your doctor identify lifestyle factors that may make your OAB worse.
There are a variety of medications available for OAB - your doctor can help you find one that's right for you.
It's important to have realistic expectations for your medication treatment. Some people may have their symptoms disappear completely, while others may only see a slight improvement. Most people, however, will have some improvement in their symptoms within 6 to 8 weeks.