Published On: 05/12/2015

Perhaps it started as a sudden urge to run to the bathroom during an outing with friends. Or, you find yourself running to the bathroom all the time with an overwhelming need to urinate. The problem might be an overactive bladder (OAB), a group of urinary symptoms such as an uncontrollable urge to urinate, frequent urination, or urine leakage caused by this frequent urge. In fact, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, OAB affects more than 33 million Americans, including 40 percent of women and 30 percent of men.

In recognition of Women’s Health Week, the women’s urology specialists at Chesapeake Urology encourage women to understand the signs of overactive bladder, or urge incontinence, and get the help they need to take back their lives.

“Many women who suffer from bladder control problems often feel embarrassed and alone. Some women even shy away from daily activities they enjoy including exercise, socializing and even sexual activity,” says Lisa Hawes, M.D., female urology specialist at Chesapeake Urology. “Women need to know that there are many promising drugs and treatment options available to help them regain control over their bladder, and their lives.”


What To Do About Your Overactive Bladder – Working with Your Doctor and Staying Informed is Key to Managing Your OAB Symptoms

Having an ongoing talk with your urologist is important to managing your symptoms. Overactive bladder treatment has many approaches, from medication and behavioral changes to nerve stimulation therapies that can help get your life back to normal.

  • Physical Therapy – Physical therapy is often the first line therapy recommended for OAB. Physical therapy specifically focused on pelvic floor muscle issues can decrease urinary urgency and improve the coordination between the bladder and pelvic floor muscles for improved urinary control. Another common OAB treatment that does not involve medication is bladder training, which involves training yourself to delay voiding when you feel an urge to urinate.

  • Lifestyle changes – Dietary changes can often alleviate some symptoms of OAB. Your doctor may recommend that you limit or eliminate foods and drinks that irritate the bladder such as caffeine, artificial sweeteners, chocolate, alcohol, certain sodas, citrus, and acidic and spicy foods.

  • Medications– When physical therapy and lifestyle modifications alone do not help alleviate OAB symptoms, these therapies may be combined with medication. Medications such as anticholinergics or Beta-3 agonists work by relaxing the bladder to prevent bladder spasms and can decrease the severe urge to urinate. They may also enable the bladder to hold more urine without frequent leakage because the bladder is more relaxed.

  • Botox injections - In some cases of refractory overactive bladder, injecting Botox directly into the bladder muscles has been found to be effective in relieving OAB symptoms. Used in small doses, Botox relaxes the bladder muscles, helping to minimize frequent bladder contractions. Botox injections were recently approved by the FDA to treat adults with OAB who cannot use or do not respond to medications known as anticholinergics. Botox injections typically last six to nine months and may need to be repeated.

  • Percutaneous tibial nerve stimulation (PTNS) – PTNS is a type of neuromodulation therapy, or nerve stimulation, that targets the percutaneous tibial nerve and has been proven effective for some women with urgent urinary symptoms. A small, thin needle electrode is placed near your ankle. The electrode is connected to a battery-powered stimulator that emits mild electrical impulses along your tibial nerve in your leg and to the nerves in your pelvis that control bladder function. The slight electrical impulses inhibit frequent contractions of the pelvic floor and bladder muscles for better urinary control and less frequent urinary urges. 

  • Neuromodulation therapy  - Also known as Interstim®, is another type of neuromodulation therapy.  A small neurotransmitter device (similar to a pacemaker) is implanted under the skin near the sacral nerves in your upper buttock along with a small incision in the lower back where your doctor will place a long-term electrode.

    The sacral nerves, located near your tailbone, carry signals between your nerves and the bladder and work to control the bladder and muscles related to urinary function. In OAB, these nerve signals do not communicate effectively with your brain resulting in bladder control problems. InterStim therapy stimulates the sacral nerves with mild electrical pulses to modulate the communications signals with the brain. This treatment is safe and effective and is a viable option for patients who have not had success with medications or other therapies.


Bladder control problems such as OAB affect millions of women, yet many women are often too embarrassed to discuss this issue with their physician. Take control of your bladder and your life – discuss any urinary symptoms you are experiencing with your doctor or a female urology specialist who understands how bladder control problems negatively impact quality of life. There are treatment options. There is help.

Learn more about the women’s personal health program at Chesapeake Urology and the dedicated female urology specialists who understand the unique health needs of women. Visit or call 877-771-9508 for more information.