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8 Ways to Tame Bladder Control Problems

As many as 33 million people may have bladder control problems. Here's help.
By Virginia Anderson
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

When friends get together and talk turns to their medical issues, you can bet there’s one issue they’ll ignore: bladder control problems.

As many as 33 million people may have bladder control problems. A good number of them may avoid the problem so much that they don't seek help.

“It causes a great deal of embarrassment,” says Sandip Vasavada, MD, urologic director at the Center for Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery at Cleveland Clinic.

The condition also affects quality of life. An overactive bladder and bladder control problems that accompany it cause loss of sleep, decreased sexual activity, depression, anxiety, and a fear of social activities.

“People are afraid to take trips, are afraid to stand in line at the grocery store,” says Janis Luft, clinical research coordinator and the designer and director of the pelvic floor rehabilitation and behavioral treatment program for incontinence at the University of California at San Francisco Medical Center. “What I hear very commonly is ‘I know where every bathroom in the city is.’”

But if you have an overactive bladder - defined as an urge to urinate eight or more times during the day and more than once during the night - there are steps you can take to help with bladder control problems. Here's what experts tell WebMD:

1. Keep a bladder diary.

This is one diary that won’t be like Bridget Jones’, but it will begin to help you see your most vulnerable times of day and also identify the extent of your problem, Vasavada tells WebMD. Write down what you eat and drink, and when. Then note when you begin to feel the urge to go to the bathroom. It’s also important to identify how much of your frequent urination is occurring at night, Vasavada says. This information can provide clues to your doctor.

2. Watch your water.

After you’ve kept your diary and identified patterns, you can work with your doctor on a fluid balance program that will work for you. Although we are told to drink eight glasses of water a day, that may be too much for some people with bladder control problems, Vasavada says.

You’ll also want to make sure, however, that you don’t under-hydrate, a “home remedy” for someone who hasn’t actually been treated for overactive bladder and who assumes that less is better. Dehydration can lead to its own set of issues, some of which can be quite serious.

3. Cut the caffeine, alcohol, and maybe spicy foods.

If drinks containing caffeine aggravate your overactive bladder, try to limit them. The same holds true for alcohol. Although the research on spicy foods isn’t clear, some patients with overactive bladder have found that limiting spicy foods, such as curry, can help.

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