If you have overactive bladder, you’re in good company: some estimates say more than 30 million Americans have OAB symptoms. That includes about one in six adults over age 40. So look around you. It may not show, but there are plenty of other people from all walks of life who understand what you’re going through.
People with OAB yearn to take greater control of their bladder, instead of feeling like its constant demands for hurried trips to the bathroom are running their lives.
For the vast majority, that goal can be achieved. You don’t have to resign yourself to living with uncontrolled symptoms. OAB is not inevitable, and it is not a normal part of aging. Knowing what to do—and what not to do—can help you join millions of others who successfully manage overactive bladder symptoms and enjoy rich, active lives.
Dos and Don'ts
Do find out what’s going on. Nerve damage related to diabetes is only one of many possible causes of overactive bladder. On the other hand, not everyone who urinates frequently has overactive bladder. Make sure your doctor is thorough in diagnosing the cause of your symptoms.
Don’t think you just have to live with it. Team up with your doctor to find effective treatments including special exercises, lifestyle changes, and prescription medicines. OAB may not be an easy topic to talk with your doctor about, but having that talk—in detail—is the essential first step toward successful treatment.
Do know your triggers. Many different foods and beverages may irritate the bladder or urinary tract in some people and make OAB symptoms worse. Among the culprits: foods like tomatoes and oranges, caffeine in drinks or chocolate, alcohol, carbonated beverages, spicy foods, sweeteners, onions, many fruits, aged cheese, sour cream, and many processed foods. Everyone reacts to foods differently. Bottom line: trial and error can help you learn which foods you need to cut back on or eliminate from your diet.
Don’t cut down on water. If you can’t stop urinating, you may think it’s a good idea to drink less so you’ll produce less urine. But cutting back on water could make OAB symptoms worse. You’ll produce more concentrated urine that may irritate your bladder and provoke more runs to the bathroom. Get most of your water during the day, not the evening, so you won’t have to get up as often overnight to use the bathroom.
Do keep taking your OAB medicine. If your doctor writes a prescription for OAB medicine, don’t stop taking it or skip doses if your symptoms improve. To keep OAB under control, keep taking your medicine until your doctor says otherwise. Talk with your doctor about how well it’s working so your dosage or medicine can be changed if necessary.
Don’t overlook other drugs’ OAB side effects. You may be taking other medicines that could worsen bladder problems. For example, some blood pressure drugs may increase urine output, and some sleeping pills could make it hard to tell when your bladder is full. Ask your doctor if any medicine or supplement you are taking—including over-the-counter remedies—could be to blame for your symptoms.
Don’t rush to surgery. There are a number of different surgical procedures to choose from for overactive bladder. And the idea of a one-time fix may seem appealing. But surgery isn’t always effective, and all surgery comes with risks. Doctors generally recommend surgery only as a last resort if simpler treatments have failed.
Don’t be a hermit. Poorly controlled OAB can be awkward or embarrassing in social situations, but it’s essential to your well-being to avoid isolating yourself. We all need to regularly spend time with family, friends, and favorite activities.
By putting these tips to work, you can get back to doing the things you enjoy with the people you care most about.