Studies Reviewed Show Prevalence, Impact of Overactive Bladder

Studies Reviewed Show Prevalence, Impact of Overactive Bladder

A summary of findings from four reports concerning overactive bladder (OAB) and its impact on quality of life has determined that OAB is common in both men and women, increases with age, and significantly impacts the quality of life of those with the condition.

The report, “Review of the epidemiology of overactive bladder,” published in Research and Reports in Urology, also emphasized the coexistence of OAB with benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), commonly known as enlarged prostate. 

While conflicting data is presented in the well-regarded EPIC, NOBLE, EpiLUTS, and Milsom, studies concerning urinary tract problems, several important commonalities were found in regard to OAB and the condition’s context within gender, symptoms, and outcomes.

Results from the four studies demonstrate that OAB is common in both men and women, however there are gender-specific differences in certain symptoms.

Women with OAB are more likely to suffer from stress and urge incontinence and storage issues than men. One study found an association between body mass index (BMI) and OAB prevalence in women, but not men. Women with BMIs above 30 were significantly more likely to have symptoms of OAB than women with BMIs below 24.

On the other hand, men with OAB are more likely to suffer from voiding issues, such as slow stream, than women. Moreover, history of prostate problems was associated with increased prevalence of OAB in men.

The authors suggest that the existence of gender-specific differences in OAB symptom prevalence indicates that anatomical or physical differences, such as differing lengths of the urethra between women and men, may cause the differing symptoms.

Irrespective of gender, the prevalence of OAB increases with age and has a significant impact on quality of life, sleep, and mental health. In addition, symptoms were rarely found in isolation regardless of gender. In fact, 50% of the time patients experienced at least two symptoms of OAB.

The impact of OAB on quality of life can be assessed by the level of bothersome symptoms, with women reporting higher levels of bother than men. Regardless of gender, increases in the number of OAB symptoms experienced by a patient directly correlated with increased level of bother.

The report also addressed the coexistence of OAB with BPH, stating that 50% of men with BPH are also affected by OAB and suggesting that OAB may develop as a result as a symptom of BPH, bladder outlet obstruction (BOO).

Additionally, the resulting symptoms of OAB lesson the quality of life of men with BPH. The authors suggest that lower urinary tract symptoms should be taken into account when tailoring patient treatment strategies.

Overall, the comprehensive summary of the prevalence of OAB and how it effects quality of life underscores the equal prevalence of this disease in both men and the increase in prevalence that occurs with age in both genders. Moreover, while symptoms can vary between men and women, OAB significantly affects physical and mental health, irrespective of gender.

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Katie McCallum is a PhD candidate at University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston in the Microbiology and Molecular Genetics program. While at the bench, her research is primarily focused on the basic biology governing host-microbial interactions. Katie's research interests extend far beyond the scope of medical microbiology. Her exposure to the enormity of collaborative effort and innovative research that exists in the Texas Medical Center has fostered her interest in science communication and science outreach.

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