Overactive bladder (OAB) affects 33 million Americans, and 30% of men and 40% of women in the United States live with symptoms of this condition. OAB is a problem with the storage function of the bladder that causes sudden urges to urinate. Some common symptoms include incontinence and the frequent need to go to the bathroom throughout the day and night. If you or a loved one suffers from overactive bladder, here are some common techniques that may relieve the symptoms.
Change your diet.
Diet can be a major issue when it comes to OAB. Certain foods may cause symptoms to be more prevalent than others. Make a list of what foods you’ve eaten throughout the day and try to make links between diet and the appearance of symptoms. Spicy foods, citrus fruits, tomatoes, and chocolate are some of the biggest culprits. Coffee and tea (caffeinated or decaffeinated) and alcoholic beverages should also be avoided to prevent overactive bladder symptoms from worsening.
Maintain a healthy weight.
Having excess weight can cause OAB or worsen symptoms. The Mayo Clinic states that people who are overweight have a greater risk of developing stress incontinence. Stress incontinence happens when someone loses urine during physical activities due to weak pelvic muscles. This can include laughing, coughing, or exercising. Maintaining a healthy body weight can make a significant difference in OAB symptoms.
Smoking irritates your bladder, and smokers cough can cause stress incontinence. Quitting smoking can alleviate symptoms associated with overactive bladder.
Practice Kegel exercises.
Doing Kegel exercises can lessen OAB symptoms in both men and women. Kegels exercises strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, which can cause incontinence if weak. To do Kegels, pretend like you’re trying to stop the flow of urine. Pull in and squeeze these muscles. Hold for 10 seconds then rest for 10 seconds. For best results, try to do three or four sets of 10 contractions every day.
Track your urinary schedule.
Keep a schedule of urination. Instead of going when you feel the urge, go to the bathroom at set times during the day. This could be every two to four hours, whether you feel like you have to go or not. This will train your body to go at these set times, avoiding incontinence or the urge to urinate at random times.
Not everyone needs medication to control overactive bladder, but sometimes it is necessary. There are certain medicines that your doctor can prescribe to relieve symptoms. These are called anticholinergic medications, which work by relaxing the bladder muscles. The most common way to take these medications is in tablet form, but they can also be given in extended-release pills, patches, and topical gels. Oxybutynin, Trospium, Fesoterodine are a few of the anticholinergic medications available.
Consider nerve stimulation.
If all else fails, nerve stimulation is sometimes recommended. Electrical impulses are transmitted through a device to your bladder. The device is implanted under the skin in the upper buttocks. This method cannot cure OAB, but it can relieve symptoms associated with the condition. This method is only used when lifestyle changes have failed due to risks of infection, pain, numbness, and adverse changes in bowl function.
OAB is normally something someone can adapt to in his or her life, but for a select few it isn’t an option. Surgery is reserved for people with the most severe symptoms when all other treatments fail. Surgery can be done to increase bladder capacity by using pieces of the bowel to replace portions of the bladder. This is only done for people with severe incontinence. If this surgery is performed, a catheter may be required to empty the bladder.