According to the National Association for Continence, about 17 percent of women and 16 percent of men over the age of 18 have overactive bladder (OAB). It becomes even more common with age, affecting 1 in 5 adults over the age of 40. The Urology Care Foundation emphasizes that not all people experience OAB as they age. For those that do, there is always a treatment that will help.
OAB causes a sudden urge to urinate. The urge is so strong it’s often difficult to control. Symptoms include:
- frequent urination
- loss of urine
- difficulty sleeping through the night
OAB can also contribute to mental health issues, including:
Over time, patients may become more isolated and experience low self-esteem.
If you suffer from overactive bladder, you may worry about having an accident while in public. You may feel like you can no longer travel, exercise, or enjoy the activities you once did. You also may feel less attractive and worry about how your condition will affect your sex life.
All of these worries can contribute to overall feelings of stress and anxiety. Fortunately, you can take steps to manage your symptoms and your emotions so you can get back to being yourself.
Even if you’re embarrassed about your symptoms, it’s important to see your doctor. A number of treatments are available to help you regain control. Certain lifestyle modifications can limit the strong urge to go, such as:
- dietary changes
- bladder training
- pelvic exercises
Medications may also be helpful. They work by blocking certain nerve impulses to help relax the bladder muscle, making it easier to resist urges. Your doctor can help you determine the best treatment for you.
In addition to diet, exercise, and medication, you may benefit from certain alternative treatments. A study published in the British Medical Journal said clinical studies have shown that acupuncture can greatly improve the quality of life of people with OAB.
The Mayo Clinic suggests that biofeedback might be helpful in treating OAB. In biofeedback, sensors attached to your body give you information about how your body is functioning. This information may help you learn how to strengthen your pelvic muscles, which will enable you to better control feelings of urgency.
Talk with others
Dealing with OAB can make you feel isolated. Those around you probably don’t really understand what you’re going through.
Local support groups and online forums can provide assistance that will help you deal with feelings of loneliness. Ask your doctor for information on groups that meet near you, or find online communities at MD Junction and the National Association for Continence.
It may feel uncomfortable at first, but once you hear other people’s stories, you’ll realize you’re not alone.
There’s a strong association between depression and incontinence, according to a study in the journal Lower Urinary Tract Symptoms. The study reported that 10 percent more people with urinary incontinence experience depression than those without the condition.
Symptoms of depression include:
- feelings of sadness
- loss of interest in normal activities
- changes in appetite
- crying spells
Depression symptoms usually last for weeks at a time. Talk to your doctor if you notice these symptoms. Getting treatment for depression can help you refocus your efforts on finding solutions to OAB.
You may have to get up to go to the bathroom a couple times a night if you have OAB. A lack of sleep can increase risk of stress, anxiety, and depression.
To increase your odds of getting a good night’s sleep, try these steps:
- Go to bed and get up at the same time every day, even on weekends.
- Avoid drinking a lot of fluids before bedtime.
- Keep the television, cell phone, computer, and other gadgets out of the bedroom.
- Indulge in a relaxing presleep activity, such as reading with a dim light, taking a warm bath, and doing a few easy yoga poses.
You’ll need some time after you’re diagnosed with OAB to figure out the best treatments. Meanwhile, you may continue to struggle with symptoms. Don’t let that stop you from enjoying social interactions.
You can always plan ahead to accommodate any potential urge to go. Meet a friend at a museum or theater where the bathrooms are easily available. Limit your time together to reduce anxiety. Gradually, as you start treatment and experience success, you’ll be able to expand your outings.
Sunlight, nature, and exercise are all great remedies for anxiety and stress. Make a point to get outside at least a couple times a week. At first, you may simply take the dog for a short walk or do a bit of gardening. Visit a park where you know they have open restrooms. Enjoy the outdoor area of a local library or museum.
Make sure you’re still regularly doing things that you enjoy. You need to keep yourself feeling positive and strong so you can cope and continue to seek out solutions that work for you.
OAB is a common condition, but it can disrupt your life if you let it. If one medication doesn’t work, ask your doctor about other options. Check with a naturopath for diet suggestions or herbal remedies. Ask your support group for ideas.
To calm your mind and curb symptoms, you may find it helpful to try:
- tai chi
A study published in the journal Female Pelvic Medicine & Reconstructive Surgery found that women experiencing stress incontinence who practiced mindfulness-based stress reduction exercises reported reduced symptoms and improved quality of life.