OAB Causes

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How The Bladder Works

To get to the bottom of OAB and incontinence, a basic understanding of how the urinary system operates is needed.

The kidneys produce the urine and then send it to the bladder. Then bladder then expands to hold the urine, while the sphincter muscle acts as a spigot and controls the flow of urine—similar to an on or off switch.

As your bladder gets approximately half full, your brain is signaled to empty it. When you urinate, the bladder muscles contract while the sphincter relaxes. When there is a coordination problem along this system, incontinence occurs.

OAB can start with a variety of conditions

The involuntary muscle contractions associated with OAB are also associated with common conditions like bladder health deterioration, poor kidney health, obstructions, nerve damage, neurological conditions, and/or pregnancy.

How a Normal Bladder Works

normal bladder, normal bladder function

The bladder is a hollow, elastic muscular organ that stores urine.

  1. The bladder contracts in response to nerve stimulation
  2. Urine is emptied through the urethra in response
  3. The bladder expands as urine drains in from the kidneys through the ureters
  4. The bladder can hold approximately 16 to 24 ounces of urine.
  5. The urge to urinate is felt when the bladder is approximately 1/4 full.
  6. A muscular valve called the internal sphincter keeps the urine from leaking out of the bladder until the bladder is signaled to release the urine.
  7. A healthy bladder can hold urine for up to 5 hours before the urge to urinate comes.

Citation: The Urinary Tract and How It Works. (2014, January). Retrieved September 13, 2016, from https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/Anatomy/urinary-tract-how-it-works/Pages/anatomy.aspx

How an Unhealthy Overactive Bladder Works

leaky bladder, oab, incontinence, bladder incontinence

The urge to urinate is often overwhelming or sudden and without warning.

  1. Urine drains from the kidneys through ureters into the bladder.
  2. Involuntary bladder muscle contractions create an overwhelming urge to urinate, even when the bladder isn’t full.
  3. The sphincter opens and urine leaks through the urethra.
  4. Urges often come without warning and are not dictated by the amount of urine in the bladder.

Citation: The Urinary Tract and How It Works. (2014, January). Retrieved September 13, 2016, from https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/Anatomy/urinary-tract-how-it-works/Pages/anatomy.aspx

Those suffering from OAB may be suddenly aware of the urgency feeling but isn’t always able to get to the bathroom before losing control of his or her urine. Urine loss can range from a small amount to something more significant that can soak underwear or even outer clothing.

While OAB is more common as we age, it should NOT be considered normal.