Overactive bladder (OAB) is a condition which affects millions of men and women and contrary to popular belief doesn’t discriminate based on age. It’s a common misconception that OAB only affects older adults, but that’s not the case. Some people are more likely to get it based on what they eat or drink, while others are affected by it because they suffer from diabetes or another disease. Dr. Kathleen Kobashi, a Seattle based urologist joined me recently to discuss the common signs and symptoms of overactive bladder, risk factors, treatment options and where you can go to find more information and get help!
Candace Rose: What are the signs and symptoms of overactive bladder?
Dr. Kathleen Kobashi: “That’s a great question. Well, overactive bladder – first of all, we call OAB. It’s a constellations of symptoms or a condition;it’s not a disease. It causes people to feel like that they have to sort of rush to the bathroom; and frequency, which means they have to go all the time. There’s a lot of great information available on a website that the American Urological Association (AUA) foundation has launched in an effort to increase awareness to the public that they’re not alone and that website is: ItsTimeToTalkAboutOAB.org, and it’s got great information.
The causes of OAB are multifactorial, so there’s a lot of things that can contribute. One of the biggest culprits in Seattle, where I am is caffeine – so coffee, and alcohol, or citrusy, spicy foods – that sort of thing can irritate the bladder. It’s not true across the board for everybody, but that certainly is a big common culprit. Also, as we get older, and again, it’s not limited to older people. But as we get older our bladders get a little stiffer and a little more irritable. For women there’s some hormone changes, and for men sometimes the prostate gets in the way and the bladder has to work harder to get the urine out. All of those are potential causes of overactive bladder.”
Candace Rose: Who is at risk for developing OAB?
Dr. Kathleen Kobashi: “Well, in the general population it’s both men and women. It literally affects millions of Americans and many more people worldwide. The estimate is about 30% of men and 40% of women in the general population and people who have neurologic issues like multiple sclerosis or stroke or Parkinson’s are at a much higher risk for overactive bladder symptoms as well.”
Candace Rose: What types of treatments are available for OAB?
Dr. Kathleen Kobashi: “Again, the website really gives you some great information on that – ItsTimeToTalkAboutOAB.org. Eliminating bladder irritants like caffeine or alcohol. Maybe hormone replacement therapy for women – not the systemic kind with pills and patches, but more like creams or little tablets. For men, treating the prostate if it’s in the way. And then there’s some exercises that you can use to increase interval between the times that you urinate. So it sort of retrains the bladder so you can overcome the urge when it hits, before you have a leakage episode.”
Candace Rose: Do you have any additional information you’d like to share with us?
Dr. Kathleen Kobashi: “Other than that, there are also some medications. You’ve all seen those Gotta go, gotta go treatments on TV or pills on TV, and they are medications that relax the bladder. Beyond those first lines of attack, there are other things that can be done and I would suggest that you talk to your healthcare provider specifically or your urologist about those options beyond the first line of therapy (it’s all outlined on that website). And also, part of this campaign is a Facebook page – it’s Facebook.com/VoicesOfOAB, and it allows you to share your stories anonymously. Again, the purpose of this campaign is to make sure that people know that they’re not alone, and people know that there are successful treatment options available.”