Bladder Urgency: Understanding and Managing the Urge

Dealing with bladder urgency can be both uncomfortable and inconvenient. Whether it's a sudden urge to urinate that's difficult to control or the occasional leakage, urinary urgency can significantly impact your daily life. 

What is Bladder Urgency?

Bladder urgency, also known as urinary urgency, refers to the strong and often unexpected need to urinate. It's a sensation that can arise suddenly and can be challenging to suppress. For individuals experiencing bladder urgency, finding the nearest toilet becomes a priority to avoid potential leaks and accidents. This sensation can be accompanied by involuntary leakage, which is commonly referred to as urinary incontinence.

Causes of Bladder Urgency

Several factors can contribute to the development of bladder urgency. One of the primary causes is an overactive bladder (OAB), a condition in which the bladder muscles contract involuntarily, leading to the frequent urge to urinate. Other potential causes include urinary tract infections (UTIs), bladder irritants such as caffeine and alcohol, certain medications, and neurological conditions that affect bladder control. Identifying the underlying cause is essential for effective management.

Differentiating Urinary Urgency from Overactive Bladder

While the terms "urinary urgency" and "overactive bladder" are often used interchangeably, they have distinct characteristics. Urinary urgency refers to the immediate and compelling need to urinate. It may or may not involve leakage. On the other hand, an overactive bladder is a medical diagnosis characterised by a combination of symptoms, including urinary urgency, frequency (frequent urination), and sometimes leakage.

Symptoms of Overactive Bladder

An overactive bladder presents with a cluster of symptoms that can significantly impact one's quality of life. The four main symptoms of an overactive bladder can include:

  1. Urinary Urgency: The sudden and intense need to urinate that can be difficult to delay.

  2. Frequency: Having to urinate more often than usual (or more than 6-8 times during the day)

  3. Urge Incontinence: Involuntary leakage of urine that accompanies the urge to urinate.

  4. Nocturia: Waking up multiple times during the night to urinate.

Managing and Preventing Bladder Urgency

Managing bladder urgency involves a combination of lifestyle modifications, behavioural techniques, and, in some cases, medical intervention. Treatment is always most effective when guided by a pelvic floor physio or urogynecologist. Here are a few strategies that can help:

  1. Bladder Training: Gradually increasing the time between bathroom visits can help train your bladder to hold more urine and reduce the frequency of urges.

  2. Fluid Management: Monitoring your fluid intake, especially before bedtime, can help prevent nocturia and minimize nighttime awakenings.

  3. Urge suppression stratagies: these involve things that you can do to "calm" the bladder when you are having an acute urge to urinate. They include things like putting pressure on the perineum, performing calf raises or toe scrunches, contracting and relaxing your pelvic floor as well as distracting the brain by counting back from 100 by 8's. 
  4. Pelvic Floor Exercises: Strengthening the pelvic floor muscles through exercises like “Kegels” can improve bladder control by improving pelvic floor range, strength and coordination.

  5. Dietary Changes: Avoiding bladder irritants such as caffeine, alcohol, and acidic foods can alleviate symptoms. Fluid spacing can also be an effective treatment.

  6. Posterior Tibial Nerve Stimulation (PTNS): Using the assistance of non-invasive PTNS we can help clam the bladder signals and reduce urgency with this simple at home techqniue. 

  7. Medications: In some cases medication may be warranted to assist in relaxing the bladder muscles and reducing urgancy.

Incorporating these strategies into your daily routine can empower you to regain control over your bladder and reduce the impact of urgency and leakage on your life. 

To book an appointment with a Pelvic Floor Physiotherapists click here to find one close to your area. 

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