Living with an overactive bladder (OAB) can be challenging, and unless you are someone faced with this challenge or are a caregiver for someone with OAB, you may not realize how hard it can be.
According to the Urology Care Foundation, nearly 4 out of every 10 women is affected by an overactive bladder. Too often people with overactive bladder find themselves facing travel, work, and social life difficulties because of the fear of having an accident or embarrassment from repeated trips to the washroom. This unfortunate emotional effect of overactive bladder is compounded with the tendency to develop a rash or become prone to infection as the delicate skin around the genitals becomes irritated. Fortunately, the overactive bladder itself is not a disease but is a medical condition that can be treated with medication combined with some fairly easy lifestyle changes.
What is Overactive Bladder (OAB)?
Overactive bladder is actually a group of symptoms, the most common of which is the sudden uncontrollable urge to urinate. Some common symptoms of OAB include:
- Leaking urine when feeling the urge to urinate (known as incontinence)
- Sudden urge to urinate.
- Frequency – having to urinate too often
While there are prescription medications to treat overactive bladder, such as Myrbetriq®, which can help relieve the symptoms, there are also several lifestyle changes that may be beneficial as well.
Retrain Your Bladder by the Clock
It may sound a little odd, but scheduling your trips to the washroom can help retrain your bladder by getting it used to holding more urine for certain periods of time before you need to use the washroom again. You can try using the washroom on a schedule of every two hours and then try holding off for an extra 5 minutes at a time, slowly increasing the time between washroom trips. This scheduling technique may help strengthen and retrain your bladder muscles.
Learn to do Kegel Exercises
Kegel exercises are simple pelvic floor exercises that help strengthen the muscles surrounding the bladder. To do a kegel simply:
- Go to the washroom and mid-stream try to contract the muscles that stop your urine flow.
- Do this 3-4 times per day, holding the contractions for 5 seconds or so.
- When not in the washroom, you can do Kegel exercises anywhere, and any time, by tightening and holding your pelvic muscles tight.
Be Aware of What and How Much You Drink
Did you know that tea (both black and green), coffee, and soda are all irritating to the bladder? Alcohol and anything with artificial sweeteners, such as diet soda, are also irritating to the bladder. Limit these drinks and, instead, drink water.
It’s a good idea to write down what you drink and when you have to use the washroom so you can make a connection between how much you are drinking and when your overactive bladder symptoms kick in.
Note: Do NOT limit your intake of water! To avoid dehydration drinking water is important. Speak to your doctor about how much water you should drink daily to stay hydrated.
Watch Your Weight
Carrying extra weight can actually make your bladder more sensitive. Losing some weight, if you are overweight, can help reduce overactive bladder episodes. It is also a good idea to make sure you are eating a well-balanced diet with fiber to avoid constipation. Constipation can make your bladder feel full and trigger the sensation of needing to urinate.
Don’t Be Embarrassed
Thousands of people live with an overactive bladder and are using medications to help them manage their symptoms. If you have symptoms of overactive bladder, do not hesitate to speak to your physician. There is nothing to feel bad or embarrassed about. By getting the prescription medication you need you will feel better and be able to get out and live a happier, healthier, active life.
Combined with prescription medications, like Myrbetriq®, these lifestyle tips can help you live a freer, more confident life.
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This article contains medical information provided to help you better understand this particular medical condition or process, and may contain information about medication often used as part of a treatment plan prescribed by a doctor. It is not intended to be used as either a diagnosis or recommendation for treatment of your particular medical situation. If you are unwell, concerned about your physical or mental state, or are experiencing symptoms you should speak with your doctor or primary health care provider. If you are in medical distress please contact emergency services (such as 911).