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Incontinence & Overactive Bladder Health Center

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Hope for Overactive Bladder Problems

A range of OAB treatments, from pills to Botox, can help you reclaim your life.

OAB: The Effects on Quality of Life continued...

In a study published in 2007 in the British Journal of Health Psychology, researchers confirmed that an OAB diagnosis had consequences on the patient's quality of life, self-esteem, and relationships.

Those with the condition worry about accidents, the researchers say, and can feel depressed and hopeless. The state of mind is worse for those with "wet" overactive bladder than "dry."

Nearly every patient with the disorder has an embarrassing or humiliating story, says Elizabeth W. Bozeman, MD, president of the Society of Women in Urology and a urologist in Spartanburg, S.C.

Among the tales, Bozeman says, is a woman who was dancing at her wedding and suddenly there was a puddle on the floor.

Travel can be a particular challenge, says Michael Chancellor, MD, professor of urology and obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Pittsburgh. "I've had patients ask for a catheter to be put in for a trip overseas," he tells WebMD. Working women tell him they have to leave twice during an hour and a half meeting to go to the bathroom.

Other patients say they ask for an aisle seat at a play so they can get up and to the bathroom quickly. Others tell him they fear they'll urinate during sex.

"When you are at the mercy of your bladder, you are like a toddler," says Chancellor. "You're thinking about it all the time, your little, hyperactive bladder."

Overactive Bladder Help: Lifestyle Adjustments

If OAB is the problem, doctors typically suggest lifestyle adjustments that may help.  Among them:

  • Limit fluid intake, especially after dinner. Bozeman asks OAB patients how much they drink in a typical day, finding that some have fallen prey to bad advice to drink as much water as possible. Some of her patients, she has found, drink 200 ounces of water a day. She tells them to cut back to a normal amount, which she considers about 64 ounces total. 
  • Limit caffeine and alcohol intake. "Caffeine stimulates you to go more frequently," Bozeman says. So does alcohol. 
  • Ask your doctor about adjustments in medication that can affect urine output. Taking diuretics at a different time of day, for instance, might help. 
  • Perform Kegels, the pelvic floor exercises often recommended after a woman delivers a child. Your doctor should be able to help you learn. Bozeman's crash course: "Learn how to do a Kegel when you are on the toilet by stopping the stream." That's the muscle you want to strengthen. To check your form: "Try to tighten it while naked in front of a mirror," she says. "Nothing on the outside should move."

Know when to use Kegels. "When you get the urge, stop, stand still, do a Kegel and the bladder spasm should ease up," Bozeman says. "Then walk slowly to the bathroom."

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