What Can You Do for Overactive Bladder?
University of Washington School of Pharmacy, Pharm D Candidate, 2016
Have you ever avoided going out because you are afraid of going to the bathroom too often? Do you prefer the comfort of your own home because you can access the bathroom more quickly? Millions of Americans struggle with overactive bladder (OAB). Fortunately, a lot can be done to help improve this condition.
Not only can overactive bladder cause problems with our physical health, but it can also cause us to shy away from spending time with friends and family and from participating in activities. People that have an overactive bladder are at increased risk of falling because they have to get up more frequently, especially at night, to use the restroom. Other problems, such as skin irritation, can arise as well. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you think you have an overactive bladder. It could be caused by a medical condition, an infection or taking certain medication that can cause overactive bladder. Along with helping to find the cause of OAB, your doctor can help you with both non-pharmacological and pharmacological treatments. There are medications to help treat your OAB, however many of them can cause unpleasant side effects such as dizziness, dry mouth, blurry vision and constipation. A popular non-pharmacological method of treating OAB is called bladder retraining, which strengthens muscles that help with bladder control.
The first step of bladder retraining is to resist the urge to urinate longer than you normally would. Many people have been successful in strengthening their pelvic muscles by this method. If you are using the restroom every hour, you should try to last 1 hour and 15 minutes. Once you can achieve this for 3 to 4 days in a row, you can increase the time between visits to the restroom. The goal is to work your way up until you can hold your bladder for 2-3 hours. Tighten your pelvic muscles for as long as you can until the urge to urinate is controlled. Repeat this exercise several times a day. You should log the time between trips to the bathroom so you can track your progress. Be patient with yourself as it may take weeks to months before you see improvement in your symptoms.
Many people fall into the trap of not drinking enough because they are afraid of using the restroom. The less you drink, the more concentrated your urine becomes, which can irritate the bladder and actually make overactive bladder worse! It is important to keep your body and mind healthy by drinking enough water everyday, around 5 8-oz glasses.
If bladder retraining is not sufficient to control your overactive bladder, you can ask your doctor or pharmacist to help you choose the best product for your condition. While on these medications, bladder retraining is still encouraged to help assist you and to help your medication to do its job effectively.
Reference: 9.6.15 Emily S Lukacz, MD, MAS “Treatment of urinary incontinence in women” UpToDate, Wolters Kluwer, 2015