Overactive Bladder in Seniors: Recognizing & Treating Symptoms

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By Michael Kennelly

Although almost 15 million Americans are living with overactive bladder (OAB), studies show that only about 5 million people living with OAB seek care from a doctor, and only half of those patients seek care from a specialist, like a urologist or urogynecologist, for treatment. So what does this mean for people living with OAB, and what treatment options are available for this condition?

Living with OAB

Data shows that most people affected by OAB learn to settle and mask their symptoms, rather than seeking help. This means living every day with symptoms such as leakage, the strong sudden need to “go right away,” and going to the bathroom too often.

Unfortunately, OAB is more than just a minor annoyance. It can impact every area of a patient’s life – including work productivity, social interactions and exercise. Simply masking OAB symptoms or settling for suboptimal results from medications does not mean that the situation is under control.

Getting Diagnosed with OAB

It’s important for people living with OAB to know that they can gain control over their symptoms. People living with OAB should also know that they are not alone in struggling with these symptoms.

When someone has OAB, nerve signals from their bladder tell their brain that it is time to signal the bladder to empty even when it isn’t full. These active, contracting muscles in the bladder case that sudden, strong urge to use the bathroom.

If someone is using multiple leakage pads per day, avoiding favorite activities, or worrying and planning their day around bathroom locations or potential urgency, it is time to see a doctor.

The Treatment Journey

Treatment begins with lifestyle changes, such as reduction of fluid intake, decreased amounts of caffeine and pelvic floor muscle training. Anticholinergic medications, which are commonly prescribed as pills or patches, are also often prescribed by physicians.. But sometimes, if patients are cycling through treatments that don’t improve their symptoms, they may need to consider other options.

The emergence of several newer therapies like neuromodulation therapy such as Sacral Neuromodulation (SNS) or Percutaneous Tibial Nerve Stimulation (PTNS) and BOTOX® (OnabotulinimtoxinA) are appropriate third line therapies to consider when self-management and anticholinergic medications are not sufficient in managing symptoms, or are too difficult for the patient to tolerate.

These third line therapies have provided novel options for OAB patients and have successfully been combined with medication and behavioral therapies to drastically improve quality of life. However, there is no cure for OAB and future research that focuses on the treatment goals and root causes of OAB could further improve treatment for patients. Research that focuses on novel medication delivery methods to reduce medication side effects and therapies are accessible with minimal adverse events may prove particularly helpful.

What is Next for OAB Patients

As an around-the-clock issue that can disrupt the daily lives of people living with symptoms, OAB has such a tremendous impact on people’s quality of life. As we continue in the pursuit of successful prevention of OAB, it is important to conduct research to better understand the causes and symptoms and discover ways to improve treatment options.

To learn more about the condition and to find a specialist, visit www.BOTOXforOAB.com.

Dr. Michael Kennelly is Professor of Urology & Gynecology and Medical Director of the Charlotte Continence Center at Carolinas Medical Center, Charlotte, NC.

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