Overactive Bladder: Not Just a Female Problem

Problem in men is largely under-diagnosed, experts say

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

Many think of overactive bladder as a female health issue; however, men and women experience it equally. According to the Urology Care Foundation in Linthicum, Md., approximately 33 million Americans have overactive bladder, about 30 percent of men and 40 percent of women. Unfortunately, it’s largely under-diagnosed in men.

Overactive bladder describes various urinary symptoms, the most prominent of which is the need to urinate frequently.

Frequent urination may have many causes, according to Elizabeth Ferry, urologist with VA Medical Center, Buffalo.

“It would be important to talk with your health care provider,” Ferry said. “Sometimes, there are other things that can cause over-activity such as stones or even cancer and we need to rule those things out.”

Nervous system disorders, urinary tract infections and enlarged prostate can also affect urination frequency.

Men experiencing overactive bladder will notice increasing urgency and frequency, along with more need to urinate at night. The problem can become significant enough where the man may experience incontinence.

Patients with urinary incontinence may feel the need to curtail their activities and stay home more. Or, they may feel secure only if they’re wearing a sanitary pad. In addition, patients experience increased risks of urinary tract infections.

Before prescribing medication, Raghu Ram, family physician and regional medical director with Landmark Health in Buffalo, advises reducing consumption of caffeine as it’s a diuretic. Coffee, chocolate, and caffeinated soda and tea are big culprits.

Other ways of controlling symptoms with behavior modification include reducing fluid intake before bedtime and reviewing the patients medication list for diuretics.

After these steps, prescription medication may be needed to offer patients sufficient help.

“Some are more of reducing the spasms that might occur,” Ram said. “Some try to improve the function of the muscle. Others try to reduce the size of the prostate.”

He said that these are usually pretty successful in offering patience “significant relief.”

More invasive methods of treating overactive bladder may include injecting Botox into the bladder to help it relax and increase its capacity and reducing the size of the prostate. Ram said that surgical intervention is unusual.