Finding the cause and solutions for overactive bladder

Monday, June 3, 2024
Finding the cause and solutions for overactive bladder
Overactive bladder is very common, affecting about 37 million adults. Doctors say there are solutions, if you speak up.

DOROTHY, New Jersey (WPVI) -- Overactive bladder is very common, affecting about 37 million adults - maybe more, because many people are too embarrassed to get help.

A South Jersey woman says there are solutions, if you speak up.

"We like to hike, we like to take trips, long road trips," notes Dana Laslow.

Laslow's family is always on the move.

But having to stop so often was exhausting.

"You have to know where the bathroom is, you have to kind of time things out," she explains.

It bothered her day and night.

"Constantly waking up, not feeling refreshed, feeling tired all the time," Laslow says.

Dr. Joshua Cohn of the Fox Chase - Temple Urologic Institute says overactive bladder isn't a disease but is defined by symptoms.

"Typically urgency of urination, that feeling that when you have to go to the bathroom, you really can't delay," Dr. Cohn says.

There are a variety of causes, sometimes several at once.

"Maybe because of fluids that you're drinking, caffeine intake that produces a lot of urine, or conditions like poor sleep quality, or even something called obstructive sleep apnea," he says.

Changes to nerves and blood vessels around the bladder can be a factor, along with conditions like Parkinson's disease or multiple sclerosis.

For women, pelvic organ prolapse can put pressure on the bladder.

After Laslow got to Dr. Cohn, she discovered the real cause of her problem.

"It was a miscommunication between my bladder and my brain," Dana says.

Some people do well by limiting irritants such as caffeine, alcohol, artificial sweeteners, and smoking.

Medications and pelvic floor exercises are also options.

For Laslow, the answer was a nerve stimulator - a pacemaker sending mild electrical pulses to nerves controlling the bladder.

It brought brain and bladder into sync.

"There's nothing experimental about it," Dr. Cohn notes, although patients are often surprised to learn about it.

"It actually has been FDA-approved in some forms since the late 1990s. So it has been around for more than a quarter century," he says.

Laslow wore an external test device for two weeks to make sure the stimulator worked.

She passed with flying colors and received the permanent implant in January.

She had minor pain the day of the outpatient surgery.

"But by the next day, I didn't have that constant feeling of having to go to the bathroom," Laslow says.

'I don't even notice that it's there," she says, glad to be back to her active life.

"My husband and I are planning a trip for September," she says happily.

Dr. Cohn says keeping a diary of all food and drinks is an essential starting point for both doctor and patient to identify what's going on.