The thought of traveling to an exotic destination might sound enticing, but not when you know you'll be taking your overactive bladder along with you. The thought of frantically searching for a bathroom in an unfamiliar city might fill you with dread. But it is possible to travel successfully.
Too often, overactive bladder causes people to drop activities they once enjoyed and become isolated, says Nancy Muller, executive director of the National Association for Continence in Charleston, S.C. Yet with proper management and trip preparations, you can travel with less fear of toileting accidents. "Control your bladder. Don't let your bladder control you," she says.
A shopping spree in Milan, a hike in Ecuador, an island-hopping cruise. On vacation, you can escape most everyday hassles -- except incontinence. At every turn, it's unfamiliar territory. If you have an accident, what can you do?
"Everyone who has incontinence has developed some coping strategies," says Roger Dmochowski, MD, a urologist and director of the Vanderbilt Continence Center in Nashville. "They do what they need to do. It's amazing how good some people are at estimating their bladder's...
If possible, get your bladder ready several weeks before you travel with these bladder-training techniques.
Practice timed voiding. This means urinating "by the clock, rather than by what your bladder tells you," says Tomas L. Griebling, MD, MPH. He is vice chair of the department of urology at the University of Kansas. Use a restroom whenever you have the chance, whether or not your bladder feels full, he says.
Do your Kegels. Strengthening your pelvic muscles with Kegel exercises can help prevent urine leakage. "They work in both men and women," Griebling says. Tightly squeeze the muscles you use to start and stop urine flow for about 3 seconds, then relax them for 3 seconds. Try to do three sets of 10 Kegels per day.
Freeze and squeeze. "One of the symptoms of overactive bladder is that sudden sensation that you have to urinate very quickly. The natural tendency is for people to get up and rush to the toilet," Griebling says. Instead of rushing, try a "freeze and squeeze": Stop and focus on what you’re feeling in your bladder, and do two or three pelvic floor contractions. This should help lessen the urgency and give you more time to get to the toilet, he says.
To help control urinary urgency, doctors can prescribe drugs such as Detrol or Detrol LA (tolterodine), Ditropan or Ditropan XL (oxybutynin), and Vesicare (solifenacin). Griebling describes these as "bladder relaxant medications." Bladder relaxants don't cure overactive bladder, but they can relieve the symptoms.
If you haven't used these drugs before and want to try them, Griebling suggests you start taking them a few weeks before your trip. This way you'll know ahead of time how you respond to the drug, "rather than traveling and being in a new place and taking a new medication and having problems or side effects," he says.
It also takes about 2 weeks for bladder relaxants to become most effective, says Amy Rosenman, MD, a clinical assistant professor at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.
Remember to pack your medications in your carry-on luggage. Also bring along a copy of your prescription, Griebling says. "That way, if you run out, it’s easier to get things refilled."
Rosenman also suggests packing a stool softener to take in case your bladder relaxant causes constipation.