Regularly experiencing a sudden, uncontrolled need or urge to urinate isn’t a normal part of aging. Rather, it’s the most common symptom of a treatable form of urinary incontinence called overactive bladder (OAB). If you are one of the millions of adults in the United States living with OAB, help is available at Blount Memorial, explains board-certified urologist Dr. Rebecca Lavelle.
“There are so many different [OAB] treatment options,” says Lavelle, who is fellowship-trained in Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery and who specializes in advanced OAB treatments, such as Botox injections and InterStim, a form of neuromodulation or nerve stimulation. “We want to help men and women [with OAB] enjoy a full life and not limit what they do because of their symptoms.”
According to the National Institutes of Health, OAB symptoms can include urinary urgency, urinary frequency (eight or more times in 24 hours), nighttime urination and leakage after a sudden, strong urge to urinate. Lavelle encourages people to see a urologist if OAB symptoms are having a negative impact on their quality of life.
She adds, “If you have to wear [bladder control] pads, have to change clothes because you’ve had accidents or you are not getting enough rest because you are waking up at night to go to the bathroom, it’s time to ask for help.”
For Lavelle, helping patients begins with a conversation. By discussing a patient’s current symptoms and his or her health history (including any surgeries), Lavelle can determine if any other factors—such as constipation or bowel problems— might be affecting the bladder.
If underlying medical issues are ruled out, the first-line treatment for OAB is behavioral therapy. This includes bladder training and toileting habits, dietary changes (such as limiting caffeine) and specialized physical therapy to retrain the bladder and to help prevent leakage episodes. Lavelle regularly refers patients to the two Blount Memorial Total Rehabilitation physical therapists certified in incontinence training. The non-invasive therapy involves weekly physical therapy sessions for 12 weeks.
When behavioral therapy alone isn’t effective, Lavelle may recommend other treatments, such as prescription medication, Botox injections in the bladder muscle wall, and nerve stimulation delivered via either an InterStim implantable device (placed under the skin to deliver gentle electrical pulses to the bladder) or an acupuncture needle connected to a nerve stimulator.
“The Botox wears off over time, so you would repeat the procedure approximately every six months,” Lavelle says. “The InterStim battery needs to be replaced every five years and the acupuncture-like session is 30 minutes once a week for 12 weeks, and then, monthly.
With such a variety of treatments at Blount Memorial, there’s no reason to deal with the often physically and emotionally demanding symptoms of OAB, adds Lavelle.
“You are not alone,” she says. “We see [OAB] all the time, and we’re here to help.”
To make an appointment with Lavelle, call East Tennessee Medical Group – Urology at 865-980-5260.