Overactive bladder can affect all the areas of your life. It controls how far you’re able to get from a bathroom, the activities you can participate in, and even how often you can laugh freely. You’ve tried controlling the amount of liquid that you’re taking in, but that’s left you dehydrated without limiting your trips to the bathroom at all. Managing overactive bladder is often best attempted with help from your doctor, but in the meantime, there are things you can do to help.
People with overactive bladders experience sudden urges to empty their bladders. In fact, a person with an overactive bladder may visit the bathroom more than eight times a day. This common medical condition affects one in five people in the U.S. over the age of 35. When an overactive bladder is accompanied by an involuntary loss of significant amounts of urine, the condition is known as urge incontinence.
Overactive bladder or OAB is caused by sudden involuntary contractions of the detrusor muscle on the wall of the bladder. Although this condition can affect people in all ages, it is more likely to occur as people age. However, it should not be accepted as a normal aspect of aging.
What Might Be Causing Your Overactive Bladder?
OAB is caused by excessive and involuntary contractions of the bladder wall. Some disorders of the central nervous system and medical conditions such as spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, stroke, and Parkinson’s disease can cause OAB. People who take excessive amounts of alcohol and caffeine are at greater risk for OAB. Constipation and medication like diuretics can increase your risk for OAB.
Symptoms of Overactive Bladder
The main symptoms of OAB are urinary in nature. A person affected by the condition will have sudden urges to urinate but when he finally goes to the restroom to relieve himself, he finds that he does not put out much. You may also feel a sharp or burning pain when urinating. However, the pain may subside as the bladder empties. The sudden frequent urges to urinate may last throughout the day and night.
In addition to feeling pain when urinating, people with OAB often experience pain from the pelvic area. You may feel the pain in the pelvic region even when you do not have the urge to urinate. In addition, men may experience discomfort in the penis and scrotum. Both men and women may experience a burning or aching sensation during sexual activity. The pain experienced by women with the condition may worsen during menstruation and ease after the period is over. The pain in both men and women can range from mild to intense making everyday activities difficult or even impossible. Pelvic exercises may help relieve the pain caused by OAB.
Medical Management of an Overactive Bladder
Several medical procedures may help ease the symptoms of OAB. Bladder distention, a medical procedure that stretches out the irritated bladder can offer temporary relief to patients suffering from OAB. Medications such as Elavil and Emilron can also help manage the condition. Electric nerve stimulation may also help relieve the symptoms of OAB in some people. Re-training the bladder is another OAB medical management tool. You can train your bladder to hold more liquid by going to the bathroom on a set schedule.
Finding Support When You Have Overactive Bladder
OAB is a life altering condition, especially if the symptoms are severe and constant. Due to the sensitive nature of the condition, many people do not feel comfortable talking about it with their family members or friends. Your doctor may recommend a support group, either specifically for people with OAB or for people with other types of chronic illnesses. Being able to discuss the condition openly can help ease the stress and improve your symptoms. While stress may not cause OAB, it can certainly increase the symptoms.
Foods to Avoid
Certain beverages can irritate the bladder lining causing pain in the already sensitive bladder lining. Drinks like beer, milk, chocolate, wine, tea, citrus juice, soda, cranberry juice, and coffee can cause bladder irritation and inflammation.
Meat, Fish and Vegetables
Heavily processed foods such as meat, fish, and vegetables can cause bladder inflammation and pain. Avoid eating foods like hot dogs, sausages, smoked fish, bologna, and pepperoni. Certain vegetables such as lima beans, black beans, pickles, tomato sauce, and chili peppers can also worsen the symptoms of OAB.
Fruits and Nuts
Acidic foods can aggravate the bladder due to their high acid content. Foods such as papaya, pineapple, grapes, plums, cantaloupe, and peanuts can irritate bladder walls.
Desserts that can exacerbate the symptoms of OAB include sorbet, chocolate, coffee ice cream, and pastries containing NutraSweet.
Acidic foods are the types of foods that you should avoid altogether if you suffer from OAB. Consider taking dietary supplements to substitute drinks like coffee and chocolate. Make sure the supplements are non-acidic. In addition, buy over-the-counter acid reducers to help relieve the pain.
Although there are many foods that can worsen the symptoms of OAB, there are plenty more foods that you can eat without any problem. Safe foods and drinks for an OAB patient include chicken, beef, eggs, turkey, yams, corn, honey, vanilla pudding, broccoli, and chamomile tea among others.
Keep a food diary to help you determine the foods that are aggravating your overactive bladder. Create a list of all the foods you eat each day and flag the ones you suspect are causing pain. This will help you determine the foods that trigger the OAB pains.
Treatments for Overactive Bladder
Often, an overactive bladder can be treated by setting a daily fluid consumption limit, including more fibers in your diet, training the bladder, and practicing pelvic muscle exercises.
Medications in conjunction with behavioral treatments can help treat the symptoms of OAB. Sacral nerve stimulation, a surgical procedure, may be recommended to treat advanced OAB. This procedure involves placing a wire on the sacral nerves located between the spine and the bladder tissue. The wire works much like a pacemaker by sending controlled electrical impulses to the bladder.
This major surgical procedure uses pieces of the bowel to enlarge the bladder. Augmentation cystoplasty has serious side effects and is only considered for OAB treatment when all other treatment options have failed.
It is important to avoid drinking alcohol and caffeine while you are trying to treat OAB and regain your bladder control. Alcohol and caffeine are classified as diuretics that cause bladder inflammation and irritation, worsening the symptoms of OAB.