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Incontinence & Overactive Bladder Health Center

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What Makes Overactive Bladder Worse?

You may not mean to, but you could be making your overactive bladder worse. Fortunately, you can turn around some of things that bring on those bothersome urges to go.

Don't: Go to the bathroom right away.

This seems like a good way to manage OAB. After all, you don't want to risk a leak, right? But heading to the bathroom every time you feel the urge isn't doing you any favors.

Doctors who focus on OAB say it's better to practice holding your urine. This helps strengthen your pelvic floor muscles, which will give you better control of your bladder's spasms.

Your doctor might even put you on a schedule to help retrain your bladder. Instead of urinating when you feel like it, you'll go regularly every hour, for example. As you build your muscles, you'll wait a bit longer between trips to the bathroom. Your bladder will learn to relax, and you'll find it's easier to hold it.

Don't: Stop your pelvic muscle exercises.

More often than not, OAB is a chronic condition; it can get better, but it may not ever go away completely. To start with, doctors often recommend exercises such as Kegels to strengthen pelvic floor muscles and give you more control over your urine flow. Many people go like gangbusters with their exercises at first, then, over time, taper off. When their symptoms return, they wonder why.

To truly control symptoms, you'll need to keep doing pelvic-floor strengthening for the rest of your life. But that 5 minutes a day will make a big difference.

Don't: Drink too much caffeine.

Research shows that lowering the amount caffeine you have each day to less than 100 mg can really make your control better. That means no more than one cup of coffee a day.

For some people, just cutting back on caffeine is enough. Others, though, need to cut caffeine out completely. See what works for you, but ease off slowly. Going cold turkey on caffeine might give you headaches.

Don't: Drink too much alcohol.

Alcohol causes your body to make more urine, which means you'll have to go to the bathroom more often. Alcohol also stimulates your bladder, which means you'll feel it more urgently, too. Drinking in the evening can make overnight control especially hard.

You may not want to give up alcohol completely, but it's a good place to start. If that helps, you can have a drink every now and then, as long as your symptoms don't get worse.

Drugs that treat another condition

Many medications could be irritating your bladder. They include:

  • Diuretics or "water pills" for heart failure or high blood pressure
  • Sedatives and muscle relaxants
  • Antihistamines for allergies or a cold, or perhaps a stomach ulcer
  • Antipsychotics and antidepressants for depression or mood disorders
  • Calcium channel blockers for high blood pressure or migraines
  • Anticholinergics for asthma, COPD, or digestive tract problems
  • Estrogen pills
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) pain relievers, such as Advil (ibuprofen) and Aleve (naproxen sodium)
  • Over-the-counter cold medicines

Let your doctor know about all of the drugs, vitamins, and supplements you take, especially any of these. You may be able to try a different drug or change the dose, which might help your OAB.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Arefa Cassoobhoy, MD, MPH on August 22, 2013

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