Perhaps you've experienced the urge to go when getting groceries out of your trunk. As you lift the bags and fumble for your keys, the urge is so strong you aren't sure you can make it to the bathroom. A person with overactive bladder (OAB) likely won't make it to the bathroom.
But despite a barrage of advertisements for incontinence products, overactive bladder is not automatically a result of diabetes or aging. You can take measures to help prevent this complication.
What is OAB?
Mayo Clinic explains that the bladder fills as kidneys produce urine—the fluid containing waste products from the body. OAB is an immediate, compelling urge to urinate when muscles in the bladder involuntarily contract.
A person with OAB may need to use the bathroom eight or more times during a 24-hour period, and increasingly, in the middle of the night—a condition called nocturia. Clinical data suggest nocturia is the reason many older adults fall while finding their bathroom in the dark (Never hurts to add a motion-sensor nightlight on the path to the bathroom!).
Nerve damage may lead to urinary frequency
Unfortunately for people with diabetes, OAB may result from nerve damage if you develop diabetic neuropathy. This is why managing your overall health is essential. Controlling your blood sugar levels and keeping all of your body's systems well can help prevent overactive bladder.
How can you reduce overactive bladder symptoms?
Empty your bladder. A urologist I know says, "An empty bladder is a happy bladder." He suggests patients empty their bladder and then wait a few seconds and see if there is any residual urine.
Toilet train yourself. As with a toddler in potty training, use the bathroom on a regular, timed schedule, whether you need to go or not. Away from home? Take a tip from this ex-road warrior: if you don't like the nearest service station, find a nice hotel. They usually have a clean bathroom right near the registration desk. Apps can help you find clean public restrooms.
Monitor your weight. As with many conditions, maintaining an optimal weight is critical. This article here on Diabetic Connect offers some helpful suggestions.
For women: Try Kegel exercises. Many women are familiar with Kegels, often recommended by ob/gyns after childbirth. These exercises strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, which in turn strengthens bladder muscle. Don't have time? Try doing them while you're waiting at stoplights.
Avoid these foods. Cleveland Clinic lists dozens of foods that may irritate the bladder. Among them are caffeinated beverages and anything that is acidic, such as tomato juice. The same article, thankfully, lists alternatives to the no-no foods.
A urology study noted an increase in OAB for individuals over 50 who had type 2 diabetes for more than a decade. If you are urinating more than eight times a day—and especially if you have to go more than once overnight—talk with your doctor. Treatment is available; better to start now, before you have a more serious problem.