When do you have to go, do you really have to go?
Our bathroom habits aren’t the most polite topic of conversation, but they are incredibly important. Why? Because bladder problems are more common than you think.
As many as 12 percent of women and 5 percent of men worldwide struggle with some type of incontinence. For many of us, it’s temporary or a phase, but it can be more.
Keep reading to learn more about whether your bladder problems are actually incontinence.
Do You Have an Overactive Bladder?
When you have an overactive bladder (OAB), almost every trip to the bathroom can quickly become an emergency.
In most cases, the need to use the toilet will come on suddenly, and you quickly feel like if you don’t go now, you’ll have an accident.
You can struggle with OAB for a number of reasons. If you drink a lot of coffee or alcohol, then you are more likely to struggle with OAB because those are diuretics, which cause you to produce more urine.
However, an OAB can also be the result of disease, particularly if you have a nervous system disease like Parkinson’s or multiple sclerosis (MS). Kidney disease and diabetes are two other common causes.
In some cases, your OAB may be the product of a urinary tract infection (UTI). UTIs are more common in women than men (women have a shorter urethra). When you get them, you may find a flare-up in OAB symptoms that disappear when you treat your UTI.
What’s the Difference Between OAB and Incontinence?
Urinary incontinence isn’t a condition: it’s a symptom. It usually refers to losing control of your bladder in some way.
We’re sure you’ll be happy to know that there are actually several types of incontinence. OAB is a type called urge incontinence, and it’s the product of muscle spasms in your urinary tract.
The other types of incontinence include:
- Stress incontinence
- Overflow incontinence
- Functional incontinence
- Mixed incontinence
- Total incontinence
Here’s a quick breakdown of each different type.
You might recognize stress incontinence as something that most commonly happens to women, particularly after giving birth. “Stress” in this case refers to pressure on your bladder rather than anxiety or mental anguish. You might also experience stress incontinence if you care a lot of belly fat, which puts pressure on your bladder.
When you have overflow incontinence, you struggle to empty your bladder when you go to the bathroom.
Even though incontinence generally is more likely to impact women, overflow incontinence mostly occurs in older men. This is because the cause is often benign prostatic hyperplasia, which means you have an enlarged (but not cancerous) prostate.
Functional incontinence isn’t a bladder issue at all. It usually means you have a disease that prevents you from emptying your bladder on time, which means you experience urine leaks.
It’s most common among patients with late-stage dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. But it can also affect people with physical disabilities who struggle to make it to the bathroom or need help toileting.
Mixed incontinence means have two or more types of incontinence that put pressure on your bladder.
Most people with mixed incontinence are women dealing with stress incontinence and one other type.
Total incontinence is the most severe. When you are totally incontinent, you no longer have control of your bladder at all, and you are reliant on a catheter.
Functional incontinence can lead to total incontinence when it’s the result of a neurological problem that impacts nerve function.
How to Treat OAB and Other Bladder Problems
By now, you understand that incontinence is a symptom, not a condition. As a result, you usually need to treat the underlying condition to treat the incontinence.
However, treating OAB is a little different because it can be the result of lifestyle choices or it can be temporary. But before you start looking at ways to treat it, be sure to visit your doctor if you also have signs of a UTI. Clearing up the UTI should also help with OAB. Plus, if you leave a UTI untreated it can turn into a kidney infection, which becomes very serious very quickly.
That means there are some behavioral interventions that can help you regain your life from the constant urge to “go.”
Some of the behavioral interventions you can use include doing pelvic floor muscle exercises to help strengthen the muscles and tissues that handle urination. This treatment is particularly important for women who have given birth because the birthing process significantly weakens those muscles to ease delivery.
Another way to do this is to schedule toilet trips. For example, you can set a toilet break at 2 PM, 4 PM, 6 PM, etc to relieve yourself before you necessarily feel the need to do so.
You might also wear absorbent pads if you’re struggling with leakage, particularly after a pregnancy.
Control Your Bladder – Don’t Let it Control You
Bladder problems are not only uncomfortable but they can feel so embarrassing. Fortunately, although OAB is the most common type of incontinence, it’s also fixable – at least to some extent.
If you’re struggling with bladder issues or incontinence, you should be sure to visit your doctor. Incontinence is a symptom – not a condition. That means that there might be something else going on that you and your doctor need to know about.
Do you pee when you sneeze? Are you struggling to recognize your body after giving birth? You’re not alone – it’s a new mom thing. Make sure to check out the rest of our content for more helpful tips just for moms and parents.