What Happens if Overactive Bladder Goes Untreated?

May 13, 2016

What Happens if Overactive Bladder Goes Untreated?

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Overactive bladder syndrome, or OAB, is a common chronic condition characterized by the sudden urge to go the bathroom, going to the bathroom frequently, and sometimes leaking before you can make it to a bathroom. Because the symptoms of OAB can be extremely embarrassing for people, they may not tell their doctor or seek help.  Many older Americans will not seek medical help because they may think that this is just a part of getting older, however, it is not.

If left untreated, OAB can disrupt your daily life. Many people suffering from OAB may avoid social situations due to the fear of having a leak and being embarrassed. This can lead to anxiety, emotional distress, and social isolation. For older adults, fears may cause them to severely limit their independence. This guide lists the various complications that may happen if OAB goes untreated.

Complications of untreated OAB

Quality of Life

The symptoms of overactive bladder can severely disrupt your everyday routine. OAB may have you leaving work meetings suddenly, or inhibit your social activities with frequent bathroom trips. Many people will begin planning their outings around available restrooms, or avoid social outing altogether.

Productivity

The urgency and frequency that comes with OAB can severely decrease your productivity during the day. Frequently having to go the bathroom interrupts your workflow, making it hard to be productive during the day.

Fatigue

Going to the bathroom frequently during the night disrupts your sleep cycle. Needing to go to the bathroom two or more times to urinate during the night is called nocturia.

Infection

If your OAB is caused by an infection, it can lead to complications if not treated. Urinary tract infections (UTIs) may lead to bladder infections and a risk of further UTIs in the future.

Depression

Social isolation due to the embarrassment of the symptoms of OAB may lead to severe emotional effects including depressions. People may stop going out for fear of an accident and start to feel bad about themselves, limiting them from maintaining valuable relationships.

Sexual Activity

Urinary issues and sexual organs are closely linked, and studies have show that OAB can lead to a negative impact on your sex life. Having to disrupt sex to use the bathroom may have an effect on sexual satisfaction. People may also avoid sex because they fear they will have an accident.

Dehydration

People with OAB sometimes believe that if they only drink a small amount, they can relieve some of their symptoms. However, if a person is not getting enough fluids, not only can this cause distress on the bladder and make OAB symptoms worse, it can also cause dehydration. If you are not exactly sure how much fluid you should be drinking every day, your doctor will be able to help you find the balance.

Falls and Fractures

Especially for older adults with OAB, there is an increased risk of falling and fractures. Studies have shown that this may have to do with the urgency and rushing to the bathroom, which can increase the chance of a fall.

Waking up to use the bathroom

To limit the amount of time you go to the bathroom during your sleep, there are some preventative steps you can take to help prevent accidents from happening:

  • Limit your fluid intake before bedtime. In the few hours before bedtime, try not to drink any liquids.
  • Limit alcohol and caffeine use before bedtime. Caffeine is a diuretic, which increase urine output
  • Limit cranberry juice intake. While cranberry juice is great for bladder health, for those with OAB, it is actually an irritant.
  • Restrict eating spicy and acidic foods. This includes curries, tomatoes, and citrus fruits.
  • Urinate twice before bed. You should try to urinate twice, or double-void before bed. Even if you do not feel like you have to go, you should still try.
  • Do Kegel exercises. While Kegel exercises should be done regularly as part of bladder training, if you wake up with an urge to got to the bathroom, you should do a kegel before going the bathroom, as it will help relax the bladder and allow you to safely get to the bathroom.
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Frequently Asked Questions

Is overactive bladder a normal part of the aging process?

Though the occurrence of overactive bladder is prevalent among those 65 and older, OAB is not necessarily a normal part of aging. About 16% of Americans over the age of 40 and about 30% over the age of 65 have OAB. There is a wide range of ailments and related conditions that can cause an overactive bladder or urinary incontinence. If you or someone you know may have an overactive bladder, see a doctor to learn ways on how to manage OAB symptoms.

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What is bladder training?

It’s just what it sounds like! Patients either practice controlling the urge, set specific times to visit the bathroom to avoid accidents, or practice double voiding. Double voiding is the idea of completely emptying the bladder by urinating then urinating again after a few minutes.

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