Also called Overactive Bladder (OAB)
Are You Like Karen?
Sixty-two-year-old Karen has bathrooms on the brain. She has to urinate 10 to 12 times a day and a few times at night. Sometimes she feels a sudden urge and doesn’t make it to the bathroom in time–she then leaks a large volume of urine. Karen has to carry several changes of clothing with her and buys adult diapers in bulk. Her situation is bad, but her embarrassment about seeking help is worse, so she just keeps coping with the condition by herself.
This is what Karen should know. Karen is suffering from the most severe form of overactive bladder, called urge urinary incontinence. About 17 percent of women in the United States have urge incontinence, especially women 50 and older, but less than half seek help. Getting help is important, because about 60 percent of women with urge urinary incontinence also experience depression (though the two conditions are not always related). Help is also important because 70 percent of women with urge incontinence report symptom improvement with conservative treatments like medication or physical therapy.
What is Urge Urinary Incontinence or Overactive Bladder?
Most of us have experienced urge urinary incontinence (UUI), also called Overactive Bladder (OAB), in our lifetime whether we are ordinarily incontinent or not. This happens when you really have to urinate but you can’t make it to the bathroom right away. The result? Oops—leakage. For those who don’t suffer from UUI regularly, this can happen in unusual circumstances—a long line in front of the bathroom in a bar when you’ve had a little too much to drink or just waiting too long before you urinate because you’re juggling too many things. But if you suffer from UUI, then you know from firsthand experience the situation is much more frequent and much worse. The urge to urinate comes on suddenly followed by a strong bladder contraction resulting in leakage. You might feel the sudden urge to urinate when you hear water running in the kitchen sink (possibly prompting you to ask your hubby about installing a toilet next to the dishwasher) or when you are trying to unlock the door with your arms full of grocery bags. Many women also leak when going from a sitting to a standing position, or when they wake up at night to go to the bathroom.
You Know You Have UUI or OAB If:
You experience any of these symptoms:
- Frequency: an urge to urinate more than eight times a day with the urge to urinate occurring soon after the bladder has just been emptied or after drinking small amounts of water.
- Urgency: a sudden and strong urge to urinate with little or no chance to postpone urination. This often occurs when you touch water or hear water running.
- Incontinence (wetting accidents): an involuntary loss of urine.
- Nocturia: awakening to urinate two or more times a night.
How the story ends
Karen went to see the urologist referred by her friend Margie. After a thorough exam, the urologist suggested Karen try conservative therapy for her UUI, including doing Kegel exercises and using biofeedback techniques to ensure she was doing the Kegels correctly. Karen is so excited about her prospects, and she should be. Studies indicate that about 75% of people who use biofeedback for Kegel exercises report symptom improvement, and 15% are considered cured.