Eloine Plaut has had problems with an overactive bladder for years. Now 59, she's fought back the urge to urinate while lecturing marketing classes at a university, flying back and forth on business trips between Chicago and New Mexico, and presenting at bank business meetings.
"I've never had an accident at work or in public," she says. "But I live in chronic fear of that occurring."
As many as one in four adult women experience episodes of urine leaking involuntarily, according to the National Association for Continence. And about 17% of women and 16% of men have continuing problems with overactive bladder (OAB).
If you have OAB, you know how difficult and embarrassing it can be to manage your overactive bladder at work. How can you keep things dry and professional? Many experts will advise you to try behavioral therapy, and if that fails, seek medical or surgical treatment. All that can take time. Here are some tips to help you manage OAB at the office, at the shop, and on the road.
1. Don't dehydrate yourself at work.
You may think you should restrict beverages so you'll urinate less, but fluid restriction can be counterproductive.
"The bladder sometimes squeezes with no relationship to how much is in there," says Pamela Ellsworth, MD, associate professor of Urology at Brown University and the author of 100 Questions & Answers About Overactive Bladder and Urinary Incontinence. "And concentrated urine actually acts as a bladder irritant." Instead, maintain a healthy fluid intake throughout the day.
2. Keep on schedule.
Scheduled fluid intake and urination are the keys to managing OAB. If you know you'll have a big presentation at noon, stop drinking fluids at about 11 a.m., and then take a bathroom break right before stepping into the room.
That's how Patty Meek, a retired Army aviator who spent years as a maintenance pilot, kept her OAB in check. "I made sure I went to the bathroom before we went out and tried to make sure that the aircraft was not going to take that long," she says. "If it did, after a couple of hours, I'd say, 'I need to go back in.'"
3. Know where the restrooms are located.
Familiarize yourself with all the restrooms on your floor, especially when you're on a visit to a different office or at a conference.
4. Give yourself an exit.
"The power spot at most work meetings is at the front of the room, but I give up the power spot," says Plaut. "I sit as close to the door as I can." Sit in the back of the room and at the end of the aisle for presentations.
5. Know your triggers.
Stay away from obvious OAB triggers in work situations -- coffee and anything else with caffeine, acidic drinks like orange juice, chocolate, and spicy foods.
"Save them for at home when you have more control over when you go," says Ellsworth. In addition, many people with OAB have noticed other factors that trigger the urge to urinate -- like cold weather. "Pay close attention to these triggers, especially on days with more hectic schedules."