Maybe it was an embarrassing accident at a party. Or the fact that you’re spending more time in the bathroom than with your family. It could be you’re afraid to be too far from the nearest bathroom, so leaving home fills you with anxiety. If you are experiencing the symptoms commonly associated with the condition called overactive bladder, like leaking urine or urinating frequently, now is a great time to talk to a physician.
Bladder Health Awareness Month is observed in November, and it’s important to know that overactive bladder symptoms are common but not normal. But who should you talk to? And how do you start the conversation? Keep reading to find out.
WHO SHOULD I TALK TO ABOUT MY BLADDER PROBLEMS?
You can start the journey toward better bladder control in a variety of ways. Many people start by talking to their primary care doctor or ObGyn about their symptoms. These doctors see many people with overactive bladder and have a lot of information about lifestyle changes and medications that can help control bladder symptoms.
Other people start the process by talking to a bladder control specialist. Typically, this would be a urologist for men and a urogynecologist for women. A doctor may also refer you to a physical therapist who might conduct an evaluation of the pelvic floor.
The advantage of talking to a bladder specialist is that these doctors are experts in diagnosing and treating overactive bladder. They may also offer a wider range of treatment options. So, if lifestyle changes and medications don’t provide the results you want, you can try more advanced options without changing your doctor in the middle of the process or repeating treatments you’ve already tried. One example of an advanced therapy is sacral neuromodulation (SNM, for short). You can learn about SNM therapy for bladder control offered by Medtronic here.
Only you and your doctor can determine the right therapy options for you. Starting the conversation with a specialist is a great first step.
WHAT MIGHT THE DOCTOR WANT TO KNOW ABOUT MY BLADDER SYMPTOMS?
Be prepared to talk about how often you go, how urgently you need to go, how much you leak, and how often you need to change your pads or protective underwear.
Using a bladder diary to track your symptoms for three days before your first appointment can provide valuable details you can discuss with your doctor. Basically, you write down how much you drink, when you urinate, and what symptoms you experience, including leaks or accidents. All this information helps your doctor understand your unique situation and is an important part of the process of diagnosing overactive bladder. You can even download a bladder diary here.
Remember: while it may feel awkward or uncomfortable to share this information, these doctors hear about bladder control issues all the time and are committed to diagnosing overactive bladder and helping you improve your bladder control.
WHAT ELSE CAN I EXPECT?
Your doctor may take a medical history and do a physical exam. You can also expect to provide a urine sample that will be tested for infection, traces of blood, or other abnormalities.
Your doctor may also prescribe urodynamic testing to see how well your bladder works. These tests can identify:
- The amount of urine left in the bladder after you go to the bathroom
- The urine flow rate (the amount and speed)
- The pressure it takes for your bladder to empty completely
This information helps your doctor understand why your bladder is not behaving as expected. However, these tests aren’t always needed before beginning treatment for overactive bladder.
10 QUESTIONS TO HELP GUIDE THE FIRST DISCUSSION WITH YOUR DOCTOR
Here are 10 questions you might ask to start the conversation at your first appointment.
- What is your approach to diagnosing and treating overactive bladder?
- Is what I am experiencing normal?
- How many people with this condition have you treated?
- Are there changes to my lifestyle that could help me better manage my OAB?
- Which other treatment options are available?
- Of those, which have you found to be most successful? What happens next if a certain option doesn’t work?
- Can you tell me what results I might expect?
- If I have additional questions about my treatment or side effects, who should I contact?
- What are the risks and benefits of each treatment option?
- What is the cost of each treatment option, and will my insurance cover it?
Bladder Health Awareness Month is an excellent time to talk to your doctor. Congratulations on getting started on the path to better bladder control!