When you live with overactive bladder (OAB), your overwhelming worry becomes, "Where is the nearest bathroom?"
You never know when you'll feel the sudden urge to urinate -- the hallmark of urge incontinence. And every time you cough, sneeze, laugh, or lift your groceries, there's a good chance you'll leak urine if you have stress incontinence. The two often coexist in women.
They may be family -- but having an incontinence accident while staying in another person's home can be awkward and embarrassing. How do you explain the wet sheets? How can you dispose of used incontinence pads? Is incontinence keeping you from visiting friends and family?
"One of my patients was afraid she would wet the bed," says May Wakamatsu, MD, chief of Vincent Obstetrics and Gynecology at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. "She stopped sleeping at her daughter's house because of it...
One challenge in treating OAB has been to relieve both types of incontinence -- stress and urge. "The problem is, we don't have a single treatment that takes care of both," says Linda Brubaker, MD, a professor in the department of obstetrics & gynecology and urology at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, and director of the division of female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery at Loyola University Health System. "We could give you medications that help with urge incontinence, but you might still be bothered by stress."
Or even more frustrating, you might have had surgically & non-surgical treatments to combat stress incontinence, only to find that you still urgently need to run to the bathroom three or four times a night -- and not always make it.
OAB Treatment Options
There are a number of treatments for OAB, and researchers are studying more in clinical trials.
If you have symptoms of more than one type of incontinence, it's likely that you'll need more than one treatment, Brubaker says. "And incontinence is also a chronic condition that tends to get worse as people age. This means we need a lot of options."
You may have already tried many of the most common urinary incontinence treatments -- medications, Kegel exercises, and bladder retraining. If you're still frustrated by overactive bladder or other continence problems that won't let up or go away, you might want to learn more about other OAB treatment options.
Behavioral Therapies for OAB
Some people with urinary incontinence may get relief by making simple changes to their lives and that's what experts recommend trying first.
If you have stress incontinence, for instance, in which you leak urine when you cough, sneeze, or laugh, your doctor may tell you to limit how much you drink.