If making it to the bathroom in time is a frequent concern for your relative, they may have an overactive bladder. More than 33 million Americans contend with this condition, in which misfiring nerves cause the bladder muscles to contract involuntarily. Your loved one may be too embarrassed to bring it up with the doctor, or even with you. But it should be checked out. It’s not a “normal” part of aging. Overactive bladder (OAB) is a real and treatable medical condition. And you certainly want to be sure it’s not something else.
The basic symptoms of OAB include an urgent need to urinate more than eight times in a day and/or more than once or twice a night.
Many people let incontinence worries run their lives. They stay close to home for fear of accidents. They withdraw from social activities, dreading they have an odor from leaks. They may become anxious or depressed. And multiple nighttime trips to the toilet can result in insomnia and fatigue, bringing on more depression.
Once a doctor has ruled out other issues, encourage your family member to use these recommended strategies to live more fully with OAB:
- Limit caffeine and alcohol, and quit smoking. All three irritate the bladder.
- Drink six to eight glasses of water a day. This seems counterintuitive, but concentrated urine is a bladder irritant.
- Eat a high-fiber diet to prevent constipation, which tends to put pressure on the bladder.
- Lose weight, also to reduce pressure.
- Do pelvic floor exercises (Kegels) to learn how to consciously stop the flow.
- Do bladder exercises to train the bladder to retain fluid for longer.
- Go to the bathroom every two hours to proactively keep the bladder empty.
Depending on the cause, suggested medical treatments may include medications, injections, gentle nerve stimulation, or surgery as a last resort.