It’s the popular health condition nobody’s talking about…
It’s not even lunchtime and you’ve already had to sneak away from your work desk and run to the toilet four times.
Worried your colleagues will notice your abnormal bathroom routine, you hold it in until you’re about to burst, wondering how it’s humanly possible to need to pee so often when nobody else seems to make this many trips to the ladies room.
If this sounds familiar, you may be one of the estimated 200 million people worldwide who suffer from an overactive bladder (OAB). While the condition can affect both men and women, with one in nine adults currently living with it, the stigma surrounding anything related to the female anatomy makes it one of the least discussed and most widely misunderstood women’s health issues there is. Which is bad news, given untreated OAB can have a negative impact on your general health and wellbeing.
So, what causes it?
Just as much as our periods are still a taboo topic, our toilet habits are simply not being talked about enough. Women often feel ashamed if anything ‘down there’ seems out of the ordinary, and we have a tendency to keep ignoring symptoms until we end up with a UTI or more serious diagnosis, such as a kidney infection.
Moreover, between juggling a career and kids on top of keeping our romantic relationships and friendships alive, our health is often neglected in the struggle to do it all. “I’m fine” is something we tell ourselves – and others – way too often, when we’re feeling anything but.
Another reason many of us don’t do anything about our frequent toilet visits is the misconception that nothing can be done to improve it, or that it’s just a normal part of ageing.
How do I know if I have an overactive bladder?
If you’ve noticed you have to answer nature’s call more often than the people around you, you may have OAB. While consulting a healthcare professional is always best to get a correct diagnosis, there are a few symptoms you can look out for if you suspect something’s up.
Frequency: If you have to use the bathroom more than eight times a day, this could signify OAB.
Urgency: People with OAB often feel a sudden, intense urge to urinate which can’t be put off for long.
Urinary incontinence: Related to the urgency to pee OAB sufferers feel, some people also experience some involuntary leakage of urine, as they can’t hold it in.
Nocturia: A condition involving sleep being regularly interrupted by the need to evacuate the bladder; if you wake up to pee during the night, an overactive bladder may be why.
While frequency and urgency are usually telltale signs of OAB, nocturia and incontinence may or may not be part of it.
An overactive bladder is caused by nerves in the bladder wrongfully signaling to the brain it’s full and consequently squeezing the bladder muscle unnecessarily. This is different from a urinary tract infection (UTI), in which the frequent, intensified urge to urinate is actually caused by bacteria that’s made its way into the bladder, and the body’s attempts to flush it out.
Symptoms of a UTI often also include a burning sensation or abdominal pain when peeing, as well as blood in the urine. While UTIs tend to require antibiotic treatment, an overactive bladder can often be managed by simple lifestyle changes.
How to treat an overactive bladder
As a first step, you can take a quick test online at bladderchecker.com.au to determine if you are likely to be suffering from an OAB, just by answering a few questions.
If it looks likely you do have a bladder condition, you should book an appointment to consult with your doctor for a more thorough analysis. The good news though, is an OAB needn’t be cause for alarm; there are a plethora of easy steps you can take to improve the condition – the easiest being changing your food and drink habits.
Caffeinated drinks and alcohol can irritate your bladder and may even set off OAB, plus they’re diuretics (things that make you urinate and are typically highly dehydrating), so it’s a safe bet to eliminate them from your diet if you’re already plagued by annoyingly frequent toilet trips.
Acidic foods, such as tomatoes and artificial sweeteners, can also unnecessarily inflame or irritate the bladder, so are best avoided where possible if you’re already urinating more than eight times a day.
On the flip side, there are certain foods that are actually good for your urinary health, such as cranberries and cranberry juice, which can help prevent bacteria from adhering to the bladder wall, and fibre-rich foods like whole grains, prune juice and leafy greens, which all help stave off constipation, preventing additional pressure being placed on the bladder as the colon expands with waste.
For some people, adjusting their diet accordingly can significantly improve their OAB. Others may need medication, which your doctor can prescribe you after a formal OAB diagnosis is made.
As with most health issues, there’s no reason to suffer in silence. It’s time to bring women’s health into the spotlight, even if it involves singing about our pee, like the folks at Astellas are doing in a hilariously clever new campaign aimed at getting people to take control of their bladder health and never, ever just hold on…
Share this video and story with all your friends to remind them bladder health is a serious issue not to be ignored. With greater awareness, there’s no need to continue suffering in silence anymore.
For more info, head to bladderchecker.com.au
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Images via giphy.com and reactiongifs.com.
Comment: Are you guilty of putting off the simple act of going to the toilet to try and get more done in your day?