Every day, nearly 33 million Americans cope with the daily fear of experiencing at least one “emergency” episode. So, they skip the water refill, wear easy-access clothing, and always choose the seat nearest the bathroom.
This 10% of the population lives with overactive bladder, the urgent and/or frequent need to urinate (even when you can’t). And by living with it, they also live with a constant hum of dread regarding many simple choices: Can I risk a second cup of coffee? Is it “safe” to take the grandkids out for the day?
“It was a terrible way of life for years,” says Elaine, one of The Urology Group’s patients who came to seek treatment.
Elaine’s story is shared by many who struggle with overactive bladder, or OAB. Happily, she found effective treatment. But many people do not – fewer than half of those who suffer from OAB consult a physician, believing it is an inevitable part of aging.
There are many options for treating OAB, however. Through Elaine’s story, and that of another patient, Vickie, I’d like to provide details of two of the most advanced services we offer.
First, What’s Happening in an Overactive Bladder
A normally working bladder will store urine until it is roughly half full – about two cups of liquid. At that point, an alert is sent to the brain to empty the bladder. The bladder muscles contract and the sphincter, which has kept the urine in place, relaxes.
When these processes don’t coordinate, incontinence can occur. For example, the signals sent to the bladder from the sacral nerve, located at the base of the spine, may cause the bladder to contract before it is full. Other causes of OAB include urinary tract infections, bladder stones, diabetes, and kidney disease. The side effects of some medications also can cause OAB.
OAB Can Be Treated in 2 Unexpected Ways
Common treatments for OAB include pelvic muscle exercises, weight loss and medications. For those patients with more acute OAB, or for whom these methods aren’t an option, these two procedures may make more sense. (Both are typically covered by many insurance policies, but we advise you check with yours.)
InterStim Therapy – the pacemaker that reduces pacing to the bathroom. This treatment stimulates the sacral nerve. During the procedure, a pacemaker-like device (neurostimulator) is implanted in the bladder through a tiny incision near the tailbone. The neurostimulator electrically stimulates the nerve, which appears to normalize brain-bladder communication. More than 325,000 InterStim systems have been implanted in patients.
For our patient, Vickie, InterStim Therapy delivers a shot of confidence every day. “I can go out in public and I’m not afraid anymore,” she says. “I don’t have to know where every single bathroom in the city is, because I don’t have to go every five minutes.”
Botox: Injecting longevity into the bladder. When injected directly into the bladder muscle, Botox can partially paralyze it, reducing overactivity while leaving enough control to empty the bladder voluntarily. Essentially, Botox relaxes the bladder so it can store more urine. One treatment can provide up to six months of improvement.
Our patient, Elaine, underwent Botox treatment after attending a seminar on incontinence issues hosted by The Urology Group. Now, she no longer forces her friends to stop everything so she can race to the restroom. “This is what it is like to be a normal person,” Elaine says.
There’s no need to settle for less than normal. If you or a loved one is experiencing the urgent need to urinate, frequently peeing at night, and/or having trouble making it to the bathroom in time, it may be OAB. Call your urologist today and ask about your best options.
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