Bladder health might not be something you think about very frequently, but with November being recognized as Bladder Health Month it’s an important time to remind individuals of some of the common bladder conditions that can occur, as well as what you can do to prevent them and find relief if you do happen to be suffering from any bladder-related conditions.
Two of the most common conditions of the bladder that people can experience include urinary incontinence and overactive bladder (also often referred to as OAB.) According to the Canadian Incontinence Foundation, as many as 10% (approximately 3.5 million) of the population suffers from some form of urinary incontinence. While incontinence can happen to anyone for a number of different reasons, it commonly occurs in individuals aged 45 and older. While incontinence is not a condition that is considered life threatening, it can have a serious impact on one’s ability to carry out their daily activities.
To have a better understanding of how urinary incontinence occurs, Dr. Ali Ghahary explains how the bladder works. Your kidneys are responsible for producing urine, and your bladder is responsible for storing that urine in what’s referred to as the urine storage reservoir. When your bladder empties, this is done through a passage known as the urethra, as well as with the help of pelvic and periurethral muscles and supportive structures, which are also what prevent leakage. When you develop urinary incontinence, this means you lose control of your bladder as a result of changes to those muscles as well as changes to the nerves, and you will experience involuntary leakage of urine. There are also different types of urinary incontinence that one can develop, including: Stress Urinary Incontinence (SUI), Urge Incontinence (UI), Overflow Incontinence (OI), and Mixed Incontinence (MI.) The most common type of urinary incontinence is SUI, which is the leaking of urine when sneezing, coughing, or partaking in exercise or exertion. There is also functional incontinence, as well as nocturnal enuresis (bed wetting), which typically affects children despite being potty trained.
There are many risk factors that can increase one’s chances of developing urinary incontinence, including age, menopause, urinary tract infections (such as bladder infections), medication, as well as certain health conditions such as diabetes, arthritis and MS (Multiple Sclerosis.) Your risk of developing urinary incontinence also increases if you are a smoker, if you drink excessive amounts of caffeine, or if you are obese. To decrease your risk of becoming incontinent, you should break these bad habits.
Similar to urinary incontinence, overactive bladder (OAB) can also have a hugely negative impact on one’s ability to carry out their day-to-day activities, such as attending work and/or school, and it may also have an impact on relationships. As many as 18% of Canadians over the age of 35 have an overactive bladder. The most common symptom of OAB is having a strong and sudden urge to urinate that you are not able to control, resulting in urine leakage. In addition, people with OAB may also have to use the restroom more than 8 times over a 24-hour period, and may also wake up throughout the night to use the restroom more than once.
Overactive bladder is caused when you’re the nerve signals between your bladder and brain tell your bladder to empty itself before it is full, or when your bladder muscles are too active and contracting. OAB can be the result of a urinary tract infection, nerve damage, other illness, or may even be the side effect of a medication that you are taking. The risk of developing OAB increases as you age, in individuals with certain neurological conditions, as well as in women who are post-menopausal and men with prostate problems. If you drink alcohol, lots of caffeine, or spicy foods, then this can also increase symptoms of OAB and you should try to avoid these foods and beverages to see if that makes any difference.