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.
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.
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.