Overactive Bladder: When You Have to Go, Go, Go
Meanwhile, medication is not the only -- nor necessarily the best -- treatment for overactive bladder, says Lindsey Kerr, MD, director of the Vermont Continence Center in Burlington, Vt. She is also the spokesperson for the National Association for Continence, in Spartanburg, S.C.
"There are probably three or four [nondrug] methods," Kerr tells WebMD. "Any smart physician will not use drugs alone but will use them in combination with other methods because it works better. We don't want patients on drugs for the rest of their lives."
Kerr says typically she will ask patients to keep a diary of how much they drink and how often they use the bathroom. Sometimes, simply decreasing the amount of liquid an individual is drinking can help. Conversely, if a patient is not drinking enough water and fluids, the bladder may be irritated -- another possible cause of overactivity, Kerr says.
By modulating the amount of liquid, she says, the bladder can often be "re-trained," she tells WebMD.
Kegel exercises, in which the patient practices contracting the pelvic floor muscles that support the bladder, can also be useful. Biofeedback -- in which patients watch a video of the muscle contracting as they exercise it -- can help patients identify the muscles so that they can practice on their own. And Kerr says there are also several devices on the market that can electrically stimulate the muscles.
Typically, Kerr says she advises patients to try a little of everything: bladder re-training, exercises, and medication. "After three to six months, we try decreasing the meds and see what happens," she tells WebMD.
Today, Kim Dunn says she no longer uses medication and no longer needs to. "I feel like a normal person now," she says.
Her advise to other men and women who experience symptoms of overactive bladder: "Be more persistent when you go to the doctor, and get them to address the issue," Dunn says. "Maybe I didn't because I got used to being like that."