Irritable bladder syndrome is also known as overactive bladder or allergic bladder, and this condition has probable chances to progress to incontinence (a disorder marked by involuntary loss of urine). A study says that nearly a million people in the United States is affected by the symptoms of this condition. The disorder has been found to affect females more than males or children. As mentioned above, a person suffering from this condition experiences sudden contraction of the bladder muscle, without any effort, and this causes the bladder to become overactive thus, the name 'overactive bladder'.
What is An Overactive Bladder?
The condition is characterized by a sudden and irresistible urge to urinate even when the bladder is not full. Normally, we get a feeling of going for our needs (urinate) when the bladder is half full, and not before that. It is also normal to hold on easily, until we go to the toilet. For people suffering from irritable or overactive bladder syndrome, there is a 'way too early' message from the bladder to the brain that it is full. However, this is not the actual case. The bladder feels fuller than it actually is, and contracts too early even when it is not full, and this takes place in an involuntary manner. This causes a person great discomfort and at times embarrassment too, as the urge to urinate occurs in unexpected places and at odd times.
What Causes It?
An overactive bladder could be a manifestation of several type of medical disorders. Some common ones include diabetes, abnormal kidney function, enlarged prostate (in men), and medication that increase urine production. Doctors also come across certain neurological problems such as Parkinson's disease, and multiple sclerosis which could cause the bladder to become overactive. Tumors in the bladder or bladder stones, and excess caffeine intake are some other causes.
What are its Symptoms?
The main symptom is a sudden and strong urge to urinate, although the amount of urine may not be as much as expected. Other symptoms include frequent urination, more than eight times a day, and making frequent bathroom trips at night. This is known as nocturia. In some people, this problem could lead to involuntary loss of urine (incontinence), which may cause leakage of urine soon after the urge is felt. And when this problem gets triggered in inappropriate places, the patient may suffer from depression, emotional distress, and even sleep disturbances.
# Following a healthy diet helps in reducing the symptoms of an overactive bladder. Avoid foods that are high in acidic and spicy contents, caffeine and alcohol. Refraining from artificial sweeteners and smoking tobacco products also proves beneficial in subsiding the symptoms.
# Another treatment that works in most cases is known as bladder training. This training includes delaying voiding when an urge is felt. The patient would be advised to delay voiding by 10 minutes at an initial phase of the training. With time, the patient would have to urinate every 3 to 5 hours. This is an effort to help the bladder to hold more liquid at a time and prevent incontinence. There is also technique which allows the patient to urinate at a fixed schedule, so that he/she may void at the same time everyday.
# Doctors usually advise patients to inculcate exercises targeted to the pelvic floor muscles in the body, and those muscles which are responsible for holding urine and prevent incontinence. For this, a physical therapist could be appointed to work with the patient.
# Some patients may have to modify their fluid consumption habits, as a part of the treatment.
# Urinary incontinence products are also available as a treatment for urge incontinence, however they are only recommended for short-term use. This is because these products may cause complication, and their use should be limited, unless advised by a medical professional.
# Patients may also be treated with medications which work to relax the bladder muscles. These medications are supposed to reduce the symptoms of this disorder and help in preventing urge incontinence. Tolterodine (Detrol), oxybutynin (Ditropan) and trospium (Sanctura) are some of the drugs which are administered. These medications trigger certain side effects in the body, which could also be managed with doctor's help.
# In cases, wherein, the patient may not respond to conservative treatment methods, surgery may be considered as a viable option.
Irritable bladder syndrome can be really 'irritable' for people who suffer from it. As the cause of this disease has not been identified, its prevention remains a challenge in medical science. However, for a healthy bladder function, one basic and important habit is to empty the bladder, whenever you feel the need, and not wait for too long until there is extreme pressure. Maintaining this habit might prevent the development of overactive bladder. People who have already been affected by this syndrome, must follow all the treatment methods required to reduce the symptoms, and start a speedy recovery.