Living with an overactive or weak bladder can leave you constantly concerned that you might have a leak or that you will struggle to find the bathroom in time. It can be embarrassing, uncomfortable and a constant cause of stress – no matter the underlying cause. It can ruin your sleep, prevent you from exercising and make everything more difficult than it should be.
It may be consolation to learn that one in five adults over the age of forty is dealing with something similar. ‘Urinary urgency’ is actually very common and it doesn’t have to ruin your lifestyle.
Among other causes, overactive bladders can be the result of disruptions to the nerve signals between the brain and the muscles controlling urination. Stress incontinence meanwhile describes incontinence that occurs whenever you cough or sneeze, often resulting from a weakened muscle.
Either way, there are some steps you can take to manage the situation and to reduce the chances of being caught out. Here are some of the most helpful…
1) Drink the Right Amount of Liquid
The more you drink, the more you will need the toilet so of course if you’re drinking too much, you’re likely to exacerbate your condition. Don’t try and ‘solve the problem’ by starving yourself of fluids though. Not only is it very unhealthy to be dehydrated, but it can also lead to constipation and urinary tract infections.
2) Avoid Diuretics
A diuretic is anything that makes you need to go to the toilet. A good example is tea or coffee due to the caffeine content. Another is alcohol and sugar too can increase your trips to the toilet.
3) Use ‘The Knack’
Using your pelvic floor muscles, it’s possible to prevent leaks caused by stress incontinence. This simply requires you to consciously contract just before you laugh, sneeze or cough. As you get better at this, you can prevent many accidents. Doctors refer to this technique as ‘the knack’.
4) Strengthen Muscles
Named after the physician ‘Arnold Kegel’, kegel exercises are exercises designed to strengthen the pelvic floor. With exercise, these can become naturally stronger and help you to better control your flow and avoid leaking.
To identify your floor muscles, try stopping your pee in mid-flow next time you’re going to the toilet and holding it. The muscle you’re tensing in order to accomplish that is your pelvic floor. Once you’re familiar with the feeling, you can then consciously tense those muscles even while you’re lying in bed.
Actually yoga incorporates numerous exercises that can help you to strengthen your pelvic floor, which among other reasons is why many pregnant women practice it. Yoga also has many other beneficial effects, so why not give it a try?
5) Give Up Smoking
There are a million ways that quitting smoking can help improve your health. If you suffer from a weak bladder, you might be particularly interested to know that it can help with that too. That’s because smoking irritates the bladder lining (thanks to nicotine) as well as giving you a ‘smokers’ cough’ which is devastating when combined with stress incontinence.
6) Learn to Hold It
In some cases, an overactive bladder can be psychosomatic. Often we will make ‘tactical’ toilet trips to avoid needing to go later and sometimes this can develop to the point where we constantly feel as though we need to go to the toilet. This is an especially big problem for those who suffer with anxiety.
If you suspect that your incontinence may be at least partially psychological, then try to teach yourself to think differently about your visits to the lavatory: it doesn’t matter if you occasionally need to sit through dinner needing the toilet – you will cope! If this is a big problem, then you might consider seeing a cognitive behavioral therapist who will specialize in removing damaging thought patterns.
7) Use Tampons, Pads or Disposable Underwear
As a means of management, using tampons, pads or disposable underwear can help you to reduce the awkwardness of a leak. Disposable underwear can actually look surprisingly stylish these days, while many women recommend using tampons during exercise or other strenuous activity.
8) Check Your Medication
Incontinence symptoms are a common side effect of a vast range of medications. If you have recently started a new course of medication and your symptoms have worsened, then this is worth consideration and you should consult with your doctor to find out if a prescription might be worsening your condition.
9) Go Regularly During the Day
If you suffer with a weak bladder at night that is disrupting your sleep, then you might find it’s the result of not going regularly enough during the day. Try going a little more frequently – even taking scheduled opportunities to fit around your routine – and see if that helps. Once you find a good balance, stick with that and try to be as regular as possible.
10) Speak With Your Doctor
Most important of all is to speak to your doctor to make sure you have the right diagnosis. There can be many causes of a weak or overactive bladder and some of these can be potentially dangerous. Speak with your doctor and they will help to give you the very best strategy and help to get the issue under control.