An overactive bladder (OAB) doesn't have to keep you close to home. Whether your OAB symptoms are caused by age, medical issues, pregnancy, or disability, there are steps you can take to prevent accidents or to manage them discreetly when they do happen.
"Doctors can always help someone deal with this," says Alan J. Wein, MD, chief of urology at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine. Treatment generally includes a combination of behavior modification -- self-help things you can do -- and, perhaps, medication."
Things that can improve your condition include the following.
Pelvic Floor Exercises
Your pelvic floor muscles help you hold your urine. You may leak if the muscles are weakened from pregnancy, prostate surgery, or being overweight.
You can strengthen your muscles to improve symptoms.
The exercise that works these muscles is called a Kegel. "I tell people to do and hold each for as long as you can," Wein says. "Get into the habit of doing them daily, about every 2 waking hours. They can stop leakage or significantly prevent it."
Pelvic floor exercises can also help if you have a sudden urge to urinate.
"They're called quick flicks," Wein says. "Relax and contract the muscles very quickly. Many times, that will abort the sensation of urgency."
Accidents are more likely when your bladder is full. If you drink too much of anything, even water, you might feel an urgent need to go.
Limit caffeine and alcohol, which make you produce more urine. "You'll run to the toilet all day long," says May M. Wakamatsu, MD, a pelvic medicine specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Drink 6 to 8 glasses of liquid per day. Cut back after 4 p.m. if you leak overnight. But do drink throughout the day. If you don't, your body will still make urine, but it will be concentrated and irritate the lining of your bladder. That can cause more of an urge, says Tomas L. Griebling, MD, MPH, of the urology department at the University of Kansas.