Urge Urinary Incontinence and Bladder Spasms
With urge urinary incontinence or bladder spasms, caused by an overactive bladder (OAB) or abnormal bladder contractions, you usually feel the need to go more often than the normal 4-8 times per day. You may also need to get up at night to urinate. For many people who live with these conditions, it’s necessary to adjust things in life, like your work environment or your travel habits, in order to avoid embarrassing accidents. In this article, we will share some of the most important things to know about bladder spasms and urge urinary incontinence, and what you can do to ease the symptoms.
Life with an overactive bladder or abnormal bladder function
A normally functioning bladder won’t send you exit alarms that makes you want to visit the toilet within seconds. Instead, you will probably feel an increasing need over time. That’s not the case when you suffer from bladder spasms, as the sensation usually occurs very sudden. What really happens is that the bladder muscle starts to contract or squeeze without warning, creating this tightening spasm that can cause a pretty severe need to release urine.
An abnormal bladder function can even make this happen without you being able to do so much about it, and that’s when we talk about urge urinary incontinence. It’s caused by heavy bladder contractions, that overrides the sphincter muscles of the urethra which usually keeps control over your bladder, resulting in leaks.
Living with any of these conditions can, for obvious reasons, affect your quality of life since you will be dependent on you keeping track of the nearest toilet.
Why does it happen?
There are many possible reasons why people get problems with bladder spasms and urge urinary incontinence:
Drinking too much leads to large amounts of urine (polyuria), and can, therefore, cause urgency feelings and frequent visits to the toilet as the bladder quickly becomes full. Diabetes with high blood sugar (hyperglycemia) can cause increased thirst and large amounts of urine. Better control of diabetes thereby reduces urinary incontinence.
Low fluid intake can cause urgency feelings too. For example, if you drink less in hope to reduce the urgency feelings it can actually make the problem even worse. That’s because concentrated urine tends to irritate the bladder lining, which results in smelly urine and, again, urge symptoms. Dehydration is also a risk factor for constipation which is a known risk to get a urinary infection.
Seeing a doctor is the best way to find out the cause. He or she will probably take a sample of your urine to look for bacteria, blood or other signs of infection. It’s also common to test the bladder in different ways, to measure the speed, bladder pressure, and amount of urine left in your bladder after urination.
Anyone at any age can get problems with bladder spasms or urge urinary incontinence with urine leakage, but here are some of the most common risk factors:
- you have a urinary tract infection (bacteria can irritate the inside of the bladder)
- a high intake of coffee and energy drinks
- bladder stones
- fragile post-menopausal mucus, that causes burning and irritation of the urethra in women
- irritation to the bladder from the outside, such as a prolapse or an ovarian tumor
- enlarged prostate
- post-surgery (pelvic or abdominal)
When to see a doctor
If you experience some of these symptoms, it’s a good idea to contact your doctor:
- a burning sensation when you urinate
- urine leakage
- blood in the urine
- suddenly a more urgent need to use the bathroom
- wake up several times a night to visit the toilet
What can you do about it?
If the reasons turn out to be neurologic or caused by an underlying disease, there’s not much you can do about it, but discussing surgery and other medical treatments. But, if your bladder spasms or urge urinary incontinence is lifestyle dependent, there are things you can do. For starters, it can be a good idea to skip alcohol as well as things that contain caffeine, like tea, coffee, energy drinks, and chocolate.
Training and exercises
Pelvic floor exercises, like Kegels, can be really useful for helping with an overactive bladder. Kegels to Strengthen the Pelvic Floor To be able to squeeze the pelvic floor muscles properly when the urgent need suddenly appears can actually stop the urgency feeling.
To do a Kegel, simply squeeze your pelvic floor muscles together as hard as you can (similar to when you want to avoid to urinate, or pass gas) and hold it for at least five seconds and repeat this exercise to gradually build up the strength. A stronger pelvic floor increases your ability to resist the urge to urinate. Your doctor or physiotherapist can teach you exactly how to do this the right way.