The term “overactive bladder” may conjure up pictures of running to the bathroom every five minutes and jokes about peeing more than a race horse, but it’s more than that.
Having an overactive bladder can also be super embarrassing, leaving you hiding out from your work and social life in the bathroom. But your life is so much more than hours spent running to a stall; here’s some advice on how you can navigate your overactive bladder.
What is overactive bladder?
Overactive bladder (OAB) a frequent urge to urinate and NOW. This sense of urgency is the key trait of OAB. It’s estimated that over 33 million people in the US have this condition, yet half of adults who suffer from OAB don’t seek out any sort of help.
How do I know if I have overactive bladder?
There are a variety of OAB symptoms, but these are the most common:
- An intense and sudden urge to urinate that you can’t control
- Frequent urination; typically eight times or more per day
- Going to the bathroom two or more times a night
- Urge incontinence- bladder leakage- after the urges
A lot of women assume that overactive bladder is a part of aging and they need to simply adjust to the symptoms. While OAB is more common with age, it doesn’t have to be your normal. If urges and leaks are making your life harder, then it’s time to do something about it.
What’s causing my overactive bladder?
OAB is usually caused by a disconnect between muscle and nerves.
Your bladder is a muscle, so it’s controlled by lots of nerves. When your bladder starts filling up, the nerves tell your brain it’s time to go. When you get to a bathroom, your brain gives your bladder the thumbs up to release the urine.
With OAB, however, those nerves aren’t always at the top of their game. Sometimes they let you know it’s time to go when it’s way too late. Other times they tell you “AH, GO NOW!” but your bladder is only part way full. With OAB, your ability to hold this urge in until you reach a toilet isn’t strong, so your bladder spasms before you’re ready. This is where the strong urges or urine leaks come in.
Sometimes lifestyle and diet can trigger OAB, too, especially if you drink a few too many glasses of wine or Venti coffees on the daily.
What’s the difference between urge incontinence and overactive bladder?
You probably lump urge incontinence and overactive bladder into the same category, but they’re not exactly the same thing.
While OAB is the constant urge and need to go, urge incontinence is when bladder leakage actually occurs after a strong urge. Urine leaks can range from a few drops to the entirety of the bladder. So, it’s possible to have OAB without having urge incontinence.
How can I deal with OAB?
First things first: visit your doctor. This can be kinda scary or embarrassing at first, but they’re here to help. They can help you take back control of your bladder.
Some common ways to help improve overactive bladder are:
Dietary plans and fluid management
Limiting caffeine and/or alcohol can make a HUGE difference. These are both diuretics, meaning that that Americano could be sending you to the bathroom a lot more than you realize. You can work on a plan with your doctor to decrease your intake. Don’t worry, they’ll help you find a balance so you can still have that margarita.
Bladder retraining is teaching your bladder to hold urine in for longer. A simple method is using the restroom once every hour during the day. Every week, increase the time in between bathroom tips by 15 minutes. This can teach your body to fit your schedule, not vice versa.
Pelvic Floor Muscle Exercises
Just like any other muscle in your body, you can exercise your pelvic floor which can help your bladder. A simple exercise for this is Kegels. You won’t need any gym equipment, however. You perform Kegels by tightening your pelvic floor muscles for 5-10 second intervals, then letting them relax for 5-10 seconds.
Some doctors may suggest injection therapy, nerve stimulation via electrical implant, or a variety of pharmaceutical options. If urge incontinence is super bad, there are surgical options too.
Overactive bladder may seem overwhelming, but you’re not alone. Your best life should be spent doing what you love, not hiding in a bathroom stall.
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Got tips for your fellow ladies who are rushing to the restroom all the time? Share them in the comments!