By its very nature, urge incontinence, sometimes referred to as overactive bladder (OAB), can make you feel out of control. You may not be able to make it to the bathroom without peeing when you get an intense urge to go. And you may get this urge just from hearing water running. The result can be discomfort, embarrassment, and anxiety.
Urge incontinence occurs when an overactive bladder spasms or contracts at the wrong times. You may leak urine when you sleep or feel the need to pee after drinking a little water, even though you know your bladder isn’t full. This sensation can be a result of nerve damage or abnormal signals from the nerves to the brain. Medical conditions and certain medications -- such as diuretics – can aggravate it.
Recent research estimates that more than 4 million people in the U.S. suffer from symptoms of interstitial cystitis (IC), a chronic bladder condition. For most of them, staying close to a bathroom is a necessity. On average, a healthy adult urinates no more than seven times a day and seldom needs to get up at night to use the bathroom. Someone with a severe case of IC, on the other hand, may urinate as frequently as 60 times in 24 hours, including multiple nighttime trips to the bathroom.
Whatever the source, you don't have to feel that your OAB symptoms are beyond your control or that they are controlling your life. In fact, you may be able to take control over them just by making some changes in your everyday behavior. Try these practical tips to get started.
Reducing OAB Symptoms
Eliminating caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol can greatly reduce the symptoms of urge incontinence, because all three irritate the bladder. Caffeine also acts as a diuretic, meaning it causes you to urinate more. Cutting out the big three can be tough. Try these strategies:
If you need help to quit smoking, ask your doctor about smoking-cessation groups or programs.
Since caffeine is in coffee, teas, colas, energy drinks, and chocolate, you may find it hard to go cold turkey. Try cutting out caffeine slowly. Wean yourself over the course of a week or two until you’re completely caffeine free.
If you don’t want to cut out alcohol completely, limit yourself to one beverage a day.
Reducing Urinary Incontinence: Drink Water Wisely
Controlling your intake of liquids can be tricky. You might think that cutting back on liquids across the board would reduce OAB. In fact, it can make urine more concentrated, which can irritate the bladder. On the other hand, it's a good idea not to pressure the bladder by drinking too much liquid at once. Try these strategies:
Drink plain water when you’re thirsty, from four to eight 8-ounce glasses a day. You’ll know you’re drinking enough if your urine is light yellow or almost colorless.
Sip water throughout the day, instead of gulping down a lot at one time.
Unless you’re exercising, don’t carry a large water bottle. It may tempt you to drink too much at once.
If you’re waking up to urinate more than twice a night, drink most of your liquids during the waking hours. Limit how much you drink two to three hours before bedtime.
If you take a diuretic, try taking it in the morning. That way, you should be able to empty your bladder by bedtime.