Firstly, let’s clear up the confusion between having a small bladder and an overactive bladder. Anatomically, it’s highly unlikely anyone has a small bladder. Our internal organs don’t tend to differ from one person to the next.
However, it is possible to have a functionally small bladder, which means your bladder, for any number of reasons, can’t hold a lot of urine. Bladder muscles (detrusor) and/or the bladder sphincter muscles become overactive and as a result there is a constant need to void.
That’s why when some people say they have a small bladder, what they’re really suggesting is they have an ‘overactive bladder’.
An overactive bladder is a condition resulting from the sudden, involuntary contraction of the muscle in the wall of the bladder.
An overactive bladder causes an uncontrollable and unstoppable urge to pass urine and the frequent need to urinate both during the daytime and night, even though the bladder may only contain a small amount of urine. It is sometimes referred to as small bladder syndrome.
The condition affects around 15% of adults (Urogynaecology.com.au, 2003) (half of which experience urge incontinence), with women affected more frequently than men. The incidence also increases as you get older.
The exact cause of an overactive bladder is a mystery. However, several factors are known to contribute to the involuntary contraction of the bladder muscle, improper bladder function, and other symptoms associated with an overactive bladder.
Some nervous system abnormalities that can cause an overactive bladder include:
Other causes of overactive bladder can include:
There are also several risk factors that can increase the chances of an overactive bladder. These include:
Overactive bladder symptoms can include:
Your doctor will take into consideration all of the symptoms associated with an overactive bladder. In fact, it may be a good idea to keep a bladder diary to help assess the extent of your condition.
They will also conduct a pelvic exam for women or a prostate exam for men to check for any physical signs that could be the cause.
Additionally, further tests may be ordered so that the right treatment options can be considered and pursued. These tests may include:
Once tests have been done to determine the cause your overactive bladder, your doctor will suggest a solution that will alleviate your symptoms and minimise any side effects. And while the goal is obviously to find a simple, effective solution, it could be one or a combination of treatments including lifestyle changes, medications and/or surgery.
- maintaining a schedule of the timing and amount of daily fluid intake
- limiting caffeine and acidic drinks such as coffee, cranberry and citrus juices
- limiting alcohol
- eating foods high in fibre, such as flaxseed, or taking fibre supplements.
Some medications have been known to help reduce and alleviate the symptoms associated with an overactive bladder. Because drug treatments present their own set of risks and side effects, they aren’t for everyone, so let your doctor determine which (if any) of these drugs are right for you.
Some common complications resulting from overactive bladder may include:
Kimberly-Clark Australia makes no warranties or representations regarding the completeness or accuracy of the information. This information should be used only as a guide and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional medical or other health professional advice.
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