Overactive bladder is a common condition affecting millions of Americans. It is comprised of several urinary symptoms, the most common of which is the sudden urge to urinate. For most, this particular symptom cannot be controlled. Often, when the urge strikes, they suffer from leaking urine, or incontinence. Another symptom of overactive bladder is the need to use the bathroom repeatedly during both day and night.
While it’s difficult to tally the exact number of Americans suffering from overactive bladder, it’s estimated that 40% of women and 30% of men deal with the condition at one point or another. Unfortunately, many more people with symptoms will not speak to their doctor, either due to embarrassment, or the idea that their condition is not treatable. However, this is not the case. If you are affected by symptoms, please talk to your health care provider. There are things you can do to treat overactive bladder.
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Causes of Overactive Bladder
In order for you to find the right treatment, you must first determine what is causing your overactive bladder. Certain risk factors should be taken into account when investigating the cause of your symptoms. These include:
While age is not a determining factor, the risk of overactive bladder increases as we get older. It is estimated that one in five adults over the age of 40 is affected by overactive bladder symptoms, such as urgency or frequency.
Excess weight can affect the bladder in several ways. It may decrease blood flow and nerve activity, which may result in control issues. Also, with weight comes increased pressure on the bladder itself. Weight loss may decrease or eliminate symptoms altogether.
Women are more likely to be affected by overactive bladder symptoms than men. The effects of menstruation, pregnancy, childbirth, and menopause cause changes to estrogen levels and weaken the pelvic floor. As a result, the risk of incontinence is increased.
When the signal between the brain and the bladder muscle is disrupted due to neurological damage, the result is often involuntary bladder contraction. This can also occur due to nerve damage, certain therapies, or pelvic or abdomen trauma. When trauma occurs, the effect may be temporary, as in a severe fall. More often, the damage is long term.
Bladder stones and an enlarged prostate are both obstructive issues which can cause overactive bladder. When the urinary stream is weakened or impeded, it can create symptoms of both urgency and frequency as well.
Treatments for Overactive Bladder
While many people are under the impression that there is nothing that can be done about incontinence, urgency, or frequency, that is not the case. It’s not just an unavoidable part of getting older. There are treatments for overactive bladder, some of which you can do on your own. Others require the help of a medical professional.
Don’t miss out on life because of your symptoms. Take a look at some of the options you may have:
This technique allows you to stretch the bladder and train the muscles to lessen urgency issues over time. You will gradually increase the time between bathroom visits over weeks or months. While it requires discipline, it also results in curing overactive bladder almost 50% of the time.
Pelvic Floor Exercises
The main purpose of pelvic floor exercises is to strengthen the muscles that wrap under the bladder, uterus, and rectum. It is unclear whether it is helpful in cases outside of stress incontinence, but you may benefit from these exercises in combination with bladder training.
There are a variety of herbal remedies that claim to alleviate the symptoms of overactive bladder. However, to date there is not enough research to support the claims of any of these herbal solutions.
Many will turn to medication to control their symptoms. If you are considering medication, there are several classes that work in several different ways. You will need to work closely with your health care provider, who will help you select a medication that works on the causes of overactive bladder that are specific to you.
All medications carry side effects, and not every drug will be effective for you. Don’t give up. There are many options that can be tested, it may simply take some time to find the one that’s right for you.
In conjunction with your choice of treatment, you may also benefit from some lifestyle changes for overactive bladder symptom control. These suggested changes may help you lessen the symptoms from which you are suffering, or perhaps eliminate your condition entirely.
Take Control of Your Weight
Again, obesity is a major contributor to stress incontinence. By maintaining a healthy weight, the pressure on the bladder and surrounding nerves is relieved. Reaching your ideal weight may also resolve your overactive bladder symptoms, along with providing a host of other health benefits.
Set a Fluid Schedule
By decreasing your fluid consumption to only the necessary amount, and scheduling how you consume it over the course of your day, you may be able to reduce your symptoms of urgency and frequency. Talk to your doctor about how much fluid you need each day.
Know Which Foods and Drinks to Consume, and Which to Avoid
If you suffer with the condition, treating the symptoms of overactive bladder is a priority. Often a person struggles with issues like frustration and simply finding ample access to restrooms. But there are things you can do to manage the symptoms of overactive bladder. There are foods and drinks which can improve the condition, as well as some to avoid. Here are a few dietary suggestions:
- Foods to Avoid: Spicy foods, cranberry juice, coffee, alcohol, soda, orange juice, tomatoes, extra sugar, artificial sweeteners, MSG, chocolate, acidic foods, salty foods
- Foods to Consume: Fiber rich foods, fresh or dried fruit, raw vegetables, nuts, brown rice, oatmeal, beans, popcorn (minus the salt!)
Regular Exercise and Healthy Habits
Getting exercise daily and quitting smoking, along with a healthy diet may help you avoid symptoms as well. Overall wellness discourages urinary tract infections and similar problems.
Whatever course of treatment you decide on, know that you are not alone. Many people experiencing overactive bladder also suffer from embarrassment and frustration. Your life plans may be impacted, including vacations, nights out, visits with family, and more. Know that help is available, and seek assistance for yourself.
There are support groups which offer a comfortable place to share your concerns, learn coping strategies, and keep you motivated. You can also get feedback about methods and treatments that you may not have tried, and see how they have worked (or not worked) for other members of your community.
Additionally, you may find tips for easing the stress and anxiety of dealing with overactive bladder. The end goal of seeking support is to inspire you toward the best possible outcome for your own personal situation, and urge you toward optimal health. Educating your loved ones and those closest to you can help you establish your own personal network of caring and support. It should also help to ease your feelings of embarrassment and help you to get back to living!