When treating OAB symptoms, doctors start with conservative treatments that target patients’ lifestyles before trying medications or advanced therapies. One common behavioral therapy for OAB - especially incontinence - is bladder training. This technique is designed to help patients gradually “re-train” their bladders to hold urine for longer and longer periods of time before emptying the bladder.
Bladder training is one of the most common first-line treatments for reducing OAB symptoms (including leaks), and it is sometimes paired with fluid intake management, a healthy diet, and other behavioral therapies such as pelvic floor exercises.
Keep reading to learn what bladder training is and how it works for OAB.
As mentioned, bladder training is a group of techniques in which a patient improves bladder control by strategically increasing the amount of time they hold urine in the bladder before emptying it. Bladder training is an especially common first-line treatment for urinary incontinence, particularly in women, who are affected by incontinence more prevalently than men. It is a non-pharmaceutical, non-invasive behavioral therapy through which your treating doctor or urologist can guide you.
The next section covers some of the strategies patients use when undergoing bladder training.
One of the first things your treating doctor will likely ask is that you keep a bladder diary. This is an important step in bladder training, as it gives you and your doctor a picture of your baseline. In a bladder diary, patients record how often they urinate, how much (by volume), the severity of the urge, and whatever they ate or drank (to help identify trigger foods or drinks) throughout the day. The doctor can then use this information as a starting point in setting intervals for urination, explained in the following sections.
The next step in bladder training is scheduled bathroom visits. Using your bladder diary to determine how often you are currently urinating, you will add about 15 minutes to that interval - so if you’re currently going to the bathroom every hour, you will now go every hour and 15 minutes. Go to the restroom at the appointed time whether or not you feel an urge to urinate.
The next step is gradually increasing the intervals between bathroom trips. Your treating doctor can help you determine when to increase the time between trips and by how much, but the idea is to gradually wait longer and longer between visits, until you are able to hold it for several hours without feeling an urge or experiencing leaks. This could take several weeks or several months depending on the patient.
Another technique is delayed urination: waiting a few minutes whenever you feel the urge to urinate. Start with a small number of minutes, such as 5 or 10. When the urge is very strong, distract yourself by counting to 100 or taking deep breaths.
Your doctor may also recommend pelvic floor exercises, also known as Kegel exercises, to strengthen the muscles that control urination, which can also help you increase the amount of time you can wait before urinating.
Unfortunately, behavioral therapies like bladder training are not always sufficient to resolve OAB symptoms like incontinence and leaks. In some cases, doctors may try prescribing medications to control urges and prevent accidents. However, medications often come with side effects and must be compared carefully to a patient’s medical history and profile.
Finally, advanced therapies are available for patients whose OAB symptoms are not resolved through behavioral therapies or medication alone. Axonics offers one such treatment, known as Sacral Neuromodulation (or Sacral Nerve Stimulation). With this therapy, a small implant delivers mild electrical pulses to the sacral nerve, an important part of the system that regulates bladder and bowel function in the human body. After a minimally invasive trial procedure, the implant can help deliver symptom relief for at least 15 years.
To find out if Sacral Neuromodulation is the right treatment for your OAB symptoms, learn more about the Axonics System today.
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