Are You 1 In 3?
Do you know exactly where the closest bathroom is at any given moment? Do you run to it more than six times a day? Wake up more than once a night to urinate? You could be one of the 12.2 million American adults with overactive bladders. Despite the common perception that it's an symptom of old age, the National Association for Continence estimates 17 percent of women and 16 percent of men over 18 years old have overactive bladders -- and 1 in 3 women are estimated to experience bladder incontinence at some point.
Described as a "strong and sudden urge to go to the bathroom," an overactive bladder causes urge incontinence, a problem the American Academy of Family Physicians says "occurs when the need to urinate comes on very suddenly, often before you can get to a toilet."
Occurring twice as frequently in women as it does in men, overactive bladder happens when abnormal nerves send signals to the bladder at the wrong time, causing its muscles to squeeze without warning. The contracting muscles give sufferers the sensation of needing to urinate -- immediately. Often, overactive bladder sufferers have only a few minutes warning from the body before they actually urinate, making it difficult to reach a bathroom in time. Some sufferers even experience involuntary urine leakage because of a failure to reach the toilet before the flow begins.
Symptoms of overactive bladder, as described by the National Institutes of Health, include:
"An average woman under the age of 65 -- absent neurological issues or other complications from medications or health conditions -- should be able to hold her urine between three to four hours," explains Missy Lavender, founder of the Women's Health Foundation. "If you are going to the bathroom more frequently -- every 30 minutes or every hour -- you should seek help from your healthcare provider."
According to the National Association for Continence, overactive bladder is a life-altering problem. Female sufferers are significantly more likely to suffer from other health disorders such as hypertension, obesity and arthritis than their peers without overactive bladders. Likewise, sufferers are two to three times more likely to experience disturbed sleep, overeating and poor self-esteem when compared with their peers.
Despite the side effects, overactive bladder is a treatable condition. Treatments typically start with behavioral changes, Lavender says, and then may include medication and evenneuromodular stimulation, which is like a pacemaker for the sacral (low back) nerves.
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