Many changes occur to our bladder as we age and the most common is overactive bladder (OAB). An overactive bladder can be quite troublesome as it consists of sudden, immediate urges to use the bathroom and even involuntary loss of urine – incontinence. But less commonly discussed is an underactive bladder (UAB), which can pose its own series of problematic symptoms if untreated.
Here we explain the causes, symptoms and treatment methods for an underactive bladder in order to raise your awareness of this alternative bladder condition.
Unlike an overactive bladder, which increases urgency to urinate, an underactive bladder involves prolonged urination with or without the feeling of incomplete bladder emptying. Urination is usually accompanied by hesitancy, a reduced ability to feel the bladder filling and a slow urine stream.
An underactive bladder can encompass a variety of lower urinary tract symptoms and can often be referred to as a weak bladder. The focus on an underactive bladder has increased in recent years, especially among the aging population and those who are obese.
Underactive bladder is commonly caused as a result of another condition. Common conditions that can contribute to an underactive bladder include diabetes mellitus, bladder outlet obstruction, and aging.
Central nervous system disorders can also increase the risk of an underactive bladder, such as multiple sclerosis, traumatic brain injury and Parkinson’s disease.
The primary symptom of an underactive bladder is withholding large amounts of urine without the sensation to release it. Even when a patient with an underactive bladder attempts to release it, they do not have the sensation of an empty bladder and often force urine out. This can lead to the bladder not becoming fully empty, which can lead to other complications.
The intensity of symptoms varies from person to person, and underactive bladder typically affects those between the ages of 40 and 60.
Diagnosis of an underactive bladder examines symptoms, as well as a person’s medical history, to uncover underlying conditions that can play a role in an underactive bladder, such as diabetes or multiple sclerosis. Aging, too, is a large factor for the development of an underactive bladder, so that can be part of the premise to explore a possible diagnosis for underactive bladder.
Exploring the patient’s health and their symptoms can help doctors solidify a diagnosis of underactive bladder.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for underactive bladder, but there are treatments available to help ease symptoms. Treatment options include medications and catheters, which help assist the bladder in emptying. Although these are not cures, they can help slow down underactive bladder progression and damage.
Due to a lack of awareness, funding is often minimal in the area of underactive bladder research, which is why treatments are limited. More awareness needs to be achieved, so the medical world can begin to offer better, more effective means of treating this serious bladder condition.
If you’ve noticed that your trips to the bathroom are taking longer and that your urine stream is slow, you may want to discuss these symptoms with your doctor.