Overactive bladder (OAB) can be a challenge, but there are lots of ways to manage it. Lifestyle changes, medication, and surgery can all help. But it’s possible to make some common mistakes without realizing it. Here are some to avoid.
You Don’t Tell Your Doctor
It’s normal to keep your bathroom habits private. But you shouldn’t hide OAB from your doctor. Your health care team can look for any hidden conditions that might be to blame. These include:
- Urinary tract infections
- Unmanaged diabetes
- Enlarged prostate
- Prolapsed bladder (when part of it moves into the vagina)
It’s not always clear what causes OAB. But things that raise your odds of getting it include:
- Nerve disorders, such as multiple sclerosis or Parkinson’s disease
- Hormone changes, such as during menopause or cancer treatment
- Weak or spastic muscles around your bladder
- Pelvic surgery
- More than one vaginal delivery
- Certain medications
When you talk to your doctor, use these tips to make the most of your visit:
- Make an appointment just to talk about your bladder issues.
- Discuss all the drugs, vitamins, or supplements you take.
- Talk about how OAB impacts your sleep and other parts of daily life.
- Bring up any other health conditions or previous surgeries.
You Don’t Think Anything Will Help
OAB can happen to anyone. But it’s more common in women and people older than 40. It’s not a natural part of female biology or aging. While you may learn your own tricks to manage symptoms, constant urges to pee don’t have to be your new normal.
Don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor about your symptoms. They’ll help you zero in on a treatment you feel comfortable with. You might worry they’ll jump straight to surgery, but there are lots of nonsurgical options you can try first.
Here are some treatments your doctor might suggest:
- Lifestyle and diet changes
- Bladder retraining
- Pelvic floor exercises
- Botox injections
- Nerve stimulation
Rarely, you might need surgery. Your doctor will likely suggest this option if other treatments don’t work.
You Skip Your Exercises or Bladder Diary
It’s easy to forget about your OAB “homework.” But your chances of feeling better go way up if you follow through with at-home treatment. That’ll likely include certain exercises to strengthen or relax the muscles that hold up or control your bladder. A pelvic floor physical therapist can make sure you know how to do them the right way.
Doctors usually want you to keep a bladder diary, too. It’s a simple tool. But it reveals a lot about your bathroom habits. You’ll need to log info for a few days or a couple of weeks.
Keep track of the following:
- How much fluid do you drink?
- Which food or drinks make your symptoms worse?
- At what time of day do your symptoms pop up?
- Do you leak pee? If so, how often?
- How often do you get a strong urge to pee?
Visit the National Association for Continence’s website for more tips on how to use a bladder diary.
You Don’t Get Enough Water
Caffeine and alcohol sometimes trigger OAB. But your symptoms may get worse if you cut way back on all fluids. That’s because pee can get really concentrated when there’s not enough water in your body to cut it. That can irritate your bladder. On the flip side, too much water can worsen symptoms.
So how much do you need? It depends. You might’ve heard that you should drink eight, 8-ounce glasses of water a day. But there’s no evidence that this amount will ease symptoms of OAB. It’s best to ask your doctor, especially if you have another medical condition.
It’s generally OK to drink when you’re thirsty. Just pay attention to what your pee looks like. It should be light yellow. If it’s crystal clear, that can signal overhydration. But if it’s dark yellow or orange, that’s a sign you need more fluids.