Overactive Bladder in Women


If you have an overactive bladder (OAB), you may worry about being too far from a bathroom. That can make it difficult to enjoy everyday activities and time with friends and family.

At Henry Ford, we understand your concerns and are here to help. Our dedicated specialists are experts at treating overactive bladder. We use the latest medications and minimally invasive procedures to put you back in control.

What is overactive bladder (OAB) or urge incontinence?

Overactive bladder is also called urge incontinence. Women with OAB feel a sudden and urgent need to urinate. This may happen frequently throughout the day — and also wake you up several times during the night.

You may leak urine or have an accident if the need to go is so urgent you cannot get to a bathroom in time. The sudden and urgent need to urinate sometimes happens even when your bladder isn’t full.

What causes overactive bladder?

Many women assume that an overactive bladder is just part of aging. That’s not true. Although the condition is more common as you get older, you don’t have to accept it as normal — at any age.

The muscle that lines the inside of the bladder is called the detrusor muscle. It contracts when it receives nerves signals from the brain that the bladder is full and needs to release urine.

In women with overactive bladder, the detrusor muscle squeezes the bladder too hard and too often. These muscle contractions create an urgent need to urinate, even if the bladder isn’t full.

Overactive bladder diagnosis

To accurately diagnosis OAB, your doctor may recommend one of more of these tools:

  • Bladder diary: If you suspect you have overactive bladder, your doctor may ask you to keep a bladder diary. This can pinpoint possible triggers and help determine the best treatment. You’ll record:
    • What you drink and when
    • When and how much you urinate
    • Any times you leak or have an accident
    • What you were doing when the leaks occurred
  • Urinalysis: We analyze a sample of your urine to check for signs of infection and how well your kidneys are functioning.
  • Bladder ultrasound: We use ultrasound to see inside the bladder and analyze how much urine remains after urination.
  • Bladder pressure testing: We use this test to measure the strength and activity of the detrusor muscle. 

Overactive bladder treatment

Fortunately, overactive bladder is highly treatable. The experts at Henry Ford offer the most advanced methods to help you overcome OAB. Depending on your condition and treatment goals, your care plan may include:

  • Dietary changes: After keeping a bladder diary, you may notice a relationship between certain beverages and OAB symptoms. Caffeinated drinks (including coffee and soda), as well as alcohol often trigger OAB.
  • Pelvic floor exercises (Kegels): Strengthening your pelvic floor can help you control the sudden urge to urinate. Stronger pelvic floor muscles also help you avoid leaking and accidents. Our specialized pelvic floor rehabilitation physical therapists will teach you an effective regimen of Kegel exercises.
  • Bladder training: Our physical therapists can also teach you how to retrain your bladder muscles to help you hold urine longer. Over time, this retraining can help decrease the frequency of your bathroom trips.
  • OAB medications: We offer a variety of oral medications that relax the detrusor muscle and prevent bladder contractions.
  • Botulinum toxin (Botox®) injections: We can inject Botox directly into your bladder wall to help relax the muscle and reduce contractions. This treatment needs to be repeated once or twice a year.
  • Nerve stimulators: The tibial and sacral nerves give signals to the bladder to contract and release urine. We use innovative nerve stimulation techniques to change your bladder’s reflexes and reduce the urgent need to go.
  • Surgery: If other treatments have not worked, your doctor may recommend surgery. Our experts use a variety of minimally invasive, robotic techniques to surgically treat overactive bladder.

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