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Does an Overactive Bladder Limit Your Social Life?

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is your social life limited by an overactive bladder? Benis Arapovic/PhotoSpin

If you experience a sudden, urgent and uncontrollable need to urinate even if your bladder isn’t full, you may have overactive bladder syndrome. OAB is a common problem that affects an estimated 1 in 11 U.S. men and women.

Other estimates show between 40 to 80 percent of U.S. women do not seek treatment for their symptoms, that include:

This means that you get a sudden urgent desire to pass urine. You are not able to put off going to the toilet.

You need to going to the bathroom often — more than seven times a day. In many cases it is a lot more than seven times a day.

You need to go more than once during the night.

Urge incontinence
This is a leaking of urine before you can get to the toilet when you have a feeling of urgency.

OAB occurs from involuntary contractions (spasms) in the muscle wall of the bladder, which can significantly increase the urge to urinate and may cause leakage.

The majority of women who develop this condition are between the ages of 45 and 60 years old. However, the problem can occur at any age and is common in people age 70 and older. Experts say OAB should not be considered a normal part of aging.

For some people OAB causes significant social, psychological, occupational, domestic, physical and sexual problems that interrupt normal life. These people may isolate themselves or limit their work and social life just to hide their problem.

A survey of 1,000 women ages 45 and older conducted by Allergan and endorsed by the nonprofit Women's Health Foundation revealed that approximately two-thirds of women have never had a discussion with their doctor about their bladder health due to embarrassment.

"These women often worry about having an accident and mapping out bathrooms wherever they go. Unfortunately, many settle for living with the condition in secret and are even reluctant to tell their doctors when their medicine no longer works for them. We encourage women to arm themselves with information, push aside their embarrassment and have a discussion with a urologist or urogynecologist to find the right treatment option for them,” said Missy Lavender, Founder and Executive President of the Women's Health Foundation in a press release.

The good news is that taking the first step in having a conversation with your doctor may determine the cause for your overactive bladder symptoms.

OAB spasms occur for many reasons. They could be caused by a physical problem such as weakening bladder muscles due to childbirth; infection or illness; weight gain or certain medications, foods and beverages.

Sometimes no apparent cause of overactive bladder (idiopathic overactive bladder) can be determined.

Available treatments may greatly reduce or eliminate the symptoms and help you manage their effect on your daily life, and include muscle toning exercises, behavioral retraining, medications — and in rare circumstances, bladder reconstructive surgery.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in January 2013 approved Oxytrol, the first-ever over-the-counter (OTC) treatment for OAB for women and should be available in stores Fall 2013.

The medicated patch was previously available as a prescription only. A prescription will still required for the treatment of OAB in men.

According to Merck, the makers of Oxytrol, FDA approval of the switch from prescription to over-the-counter (OTC)access was based on “data from several well-designed studies that demonstrated a woman’s ability to correctly recognize OAB symptoms, understand key safety messages on the label, judge if the product is right, or wrong, for her, and appropriately use it in an unsupervised setting.”

Eman Elkadry, M.D., Clinical Instructor at Harvard Medical School and Boston Urogynecology Associates at Mount Auburn Hospital said in a press statement the OTC treatment option is “an exciting development for the millions of women who struggle to deal with OAB every day.” This gives many women a chance to independently manage their symptoms and achieve a sense of control.

“The approval also provides recognition that this is a real medical disorder that can be addressed," Elkadry said.

Lynette Summerill is an award-winning writer and Scuba enthusiast who lives in San Diego with her husband and two beach loving dogs. In addition to writing about cancer-related issues for EmpowHER, her work has been seen in publications internationally.


Woodhouse, J.B., P. Patki, K. Patil, J. Shah. "Botulinum Toxin and the Overactive Bladder." Br J Hosp Med 67.9 (2006): 460-464.

Overactive Bladder. Mayo Clinic. Accessed 15 July 2013.

Kelton OAB Quarterly Index Survey, Allergan, 2013, The Overactive Bladder Survey was conducted between April 12th and April 23rd, 2013 among 1,045 nationally representative American women ages 45 and older, using an email invitation and an online survey.

Urology Care Foundation, the official foundation of the American Urological Association. Overactive Bladder Web page Accessed 15 July, 2013.

Allergan Survey: 1 in 5 Women Embarrassed to Talk About OAB:

FDA Approves OXYTROL® FOR WOMEN, the First Over-the-Counter Treatment for Overactive Bladder in Women.

Merck Press Release. 25 Jan. 2013.

Reviewed July 15, 2013
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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