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. Just the thought of frantically searching for a bathroom in an unfamiliar city can fill you with dread. When the urge to urinate strikes suddenly -- or frequently -- sometimes it’s better to just stay at home.
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.
If you’re planning to travel with overactive bladder, here are some tips to help make your trip more successful.
If possible, try training your bladder several weeks before you travel. Bladder training encompasses multiple techniques, but here are a few useful ones:
This means urinating on a set schedule, "by the clock, rather than by what your bladder tells you," says Tomas L. Griebling, MD, MPH, professor and vice chair of the department of urology at the University of Kansas and a faculty associate in the Landon Center of Aging.
Use a restroom whenever you have the chance, whether or not your bladder feels full, Muller says.
Kegels or pelvic floor exercises
Strengthening your pelvic muscles with Kegel exercises can help prevent urine leakage. "They work in both men and women," Griebling says.
You can do Kegel exercises while sitting at your desk, in your car, or in front of the TV. To do Kegels, 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. During such an episode, the bladder may be contracting involuntarily, causing urine to leak.
Instead of rushing, try a "freeze and squeeze" technique, Griebling says. "They should stop and focus on what they’re feeling in their bladder and do two or three pelvic floor contractions. Often, they will have less urgency. It will help them to have more time to get to the toilet."
To help control urinary urgency, doctors can prescribe anticholinergic drugs such as oxybutynin (Ditropan, Ditropan XL), solifenacin (Vesicare), and tolterodine (Detrol, Detrol LA), which Griebling describes as "bladder relaxant medications."
"All of them can work quite well, but they can have side effects, mostly dry mouth and constipation. In some older people, they can cause visual problems or confusion," he says. And like all medications they can interact with other medications you take so be sure to let your doctor know all your medications.