Sally was 41 when she started noticing changes in her bathroom habits. It only happened a couple of times a week, but she would find herself suddenly needing to go. She’d often race to the bathroom upon arriving home from an afternoon out, hobbling her way to the door, desperate to make it before she had an accident (something that she was ashamed to say had happened at least a couple of times).
After a few years, the problem had worsened. It was a gradual, but steady change that was hard to ignore, but in the end, it was something she just put up with. In fact, even though it was an annoyance, she had become so good at putting up with it it had actually just become a part of who she was.
She brought a change of clothes with her when she went out and left them in the car. She had a spare pair of pants at work. She started wearing darker colors to mask any accidents that might occur, and she located the nearest bathroom upon first arriving at a new location. You could say that she was a “pro” at having an overactive bladder.
And even though she visited her doctor each year for a checkup, she never brought this issue up. It just would have been too embarrassing to discuss, and after all, she supposed, “Isn’t this just a part of getting older?”.
Unfortunately, this is a reality for far too many women. The myth that OAB is something that is just a natural parting of aging and something you should just learn to live with is one of the most common things we hear at NAFC. But the truth is, nothing could be further from the truth.
Overactive bladder, that “gotta go right now, even though I just went” feeling, is more common as we age, but it certainly isn’t normal, and it doesn’t just happen to old people. Women even in their 20’s can experience OAB. Men too. And while it’s probably something you’d rather not discuss, it’s a real medical condition – one that should be talked about with your doctor.
Over 33 million people suffer from Overactive Bladder in the US alone. The hallmark symptoms include a frequent, urgent need to empty your bladder, which can sometimes be accompanied by bladder leaks. It may also lead you to wake up 2 or more times at night, a condition called nocturia.
OAB can be brought on by many things: neurological disorders, diabetes, UTIs, certain medications, your diet, bladder stones, or obstructions to the outflow of your bladder (think an enlarged prostate, constipation, etc.).
In addition to the obvious physical annoyance of OAB, the emotional byproducts are almost just as bad (and in some cases, maybe worse). We are taught from a young age to be ashamed of wetting our pants. As an adult, this can be a very hard thing to accept, and many people go years without sharing their secret, working hard, like Sally, to cover it up, make compromises, and get by. But OAB is not a normal part of getting older, and it’s not normal to live like that.
WHY IGNORING OAB IS NOT THE SOLUTION
It’s tempting to bury your head in the sand and hope that OAB goes away, but unfortunately it doesn’t usually work like that. Here are 6 reasons why you should never ignore your overactive bladder.
MOST OF THE TIME, IT’S NOT GOING TO GO AWAY ON ITS OWN.
OAB is not usually a condition that reverses itself with time. There may be a number of reasons that cause you to have an overactive bladder, and there are a number of ways to treat it, but if you do absolutely nothing to fix it, you’re probably going to be stuck with OAB for a while. It’s a chronic condition, but the symptoms can be managed.
NOT ADDRESSING IT WILL ONLY LEAD TO WORSE PROBLEMS DOWN THE ROAD AS YOU GET OLDER.
Not only does OAB not go away on it’s own, but the condition will likely get worse if left untreated. Over time, our muscles get weaker and the tissues of our pelvic floor grow thinner. If OAB is left untreated, it can become harder to control the urges, and leaks may be more frequent.
IT’S A REAL MEDICAL CONDITION.
OAB is a medical condition that deserves treatment. Not only is it an annoyance to live with, but not bringing it up may cause your doctor to miss other underlying conditions that could be contributing to your overactive bladder. You wouldn’t not treat something like diabetes, a heart condition, or MS. Overactive bladder isn’t any different.
IT ROBS YOU OF YOUR LIFE.
This may be the most important one yet. Yes, it’s something that maybe you can live with. You can work around it, even if it’s inconvenient. But why do that? OAB causes you to miss out on things that you might otherwise partake in if you didn’t have to worry about it, and that’s not ok, especially since there are so many treatments available.
IT’S A TREATABLE CONDITION.
There are so many treatment options available, it doesn’t make sense to just ignore it. Lifestyle changes, medications, minimally invasive procedures done in the doctor’s office, surgery and even Botox are just some of the treatment options currently available for overactive bladder.
ONCE YOU TALK TO YOUR DOCTOR, YOU’LL REALIZE THAT TALKING ABOUT IT ISN’T SUCH A BIG DEAL.
Unless your doctor is a jerk, you’ll likely find that they will take the discussion in stride, and will be genuinely concerned with your condition. (And if your doctor does act like a jerk, then it’s time to get a new doctor.) Doctors, especially urologists, hear about these symptoms all the time – you are not the first one to come to them about an overactive bladder. Don’t wait to speak up. The sooner you talk to your doctor, the sooner you’ll be able to figure out a treatment plan that works for you. (Need help getting the conversation started? Check out these tips.)
What’s holding you back from speaking up and getting treatment? Share it with us in the comments below, or on our message boards!