Adjusting Daily Life for an Overactive Bladder
You may have to change your job depending on how severe your overactive bladder (OAB) condition is. Jobs that require people to run around all day, constant travel, or intense physical labor are hard to manage if you have OAB. Instead, focus on jobs that allow you to be in close proximity to a restroom at all times and one that won’t put a lot of strain on your body. Working from home is the ideal option.
In an office setting, tell your boss your desk needs to be close to the restroom for medical reasons — you don’t have to divulge any details. Use the restroom right before and after any meetings. If possible, sit near the door in a meeting so you can easily excuse yourself when you feel the urge to go. And always wear some padding or special undergarments to deal with slight leakage or accidents. Bring extra pants and plastic bags in case of an emergency. You can change in the bathroom and place your soiled garments in your car.
If you have OAB, you may also have nocturia. This is when you wake up several times throughout the night to urinate. Take preventive measures, such as eliminating caffeinated beverages several hours before bedtime and reducing liquid intake an hour or more before bedtime. Wear padded underwear at night in case of any leaks. Have spare bed sheets nearby for accidents so you don’t have to search for them in the middle of the night. Establish a clear pathway from your bed to the bathroom, and use a night light in the hallway or bedroom to avoid injuries or falls. If you experience nocturia, talk to your urologist for additional treatment options.
People with OAB can exercise as long as certain precautions are taken, according to Dr. Jay Motola, a urologist at New York’s Lenox Hill Hospital. Empty your bladder right before and after working out. Avoid any diuretics — caffeine, spicy foods, alcohol — for several hours before you plan to exercise.
A gym is more optimal for someone with OAB than exercising outdoors, due to easy bathroom access. Know where the bathrooms are located at your workout facility and try to use an exercise machine close to them. And be sure to stay hydrated This is important for anyone during exercise. Dr. Motola recommends that people with OAB drink small amounts throughout their fitness routine.
Having OAB doesn’t mean you can’t also have a life. You simply need to plan more. Make dinner reservations ahead of time and reserve a table near the restrooms (tell the hostess it’s because of medical reasons). If you’re visiting an attraction, do your research and map out the bathroom locations and their accessibility. If there aren’t many or they aren’t easily accessible, adjust your plans and go somewhere else. At the movies, sit in an aisle seat toward the back of the theater so you don’t disrupt the crowd by getting up and down. Go out with family and friends with whom you feel comfortable and who will understand your personal needs. And, of course, always carry a bag with supplies and clothes in case of an emergency.
Sexual activity can often be interrupted by OAB, either due to a strong, sudden urge to void or accidental leakage during sex. Once the act is stopped, particularly before either partner reaches orgasm, it may be difficult to continue and complete.
Another possible (rare) complication for females is a cystocele. “A cystocele is a protrusion of the bladder wall into the vagina,” Dr. Motola says. There are varying degrees of this condition. On the extreme side, a cystocele may drop out beyond the external labia. This may make vaginal penetration challenging, Dr. Motola explains, and painful. Fortunately, surgery can repair a cystocele.
Erica Sanderson is a former content producer and editor for HealthCentral. Living with a chronic disorder that affects the lungs and instestine, Erica focused on covering digestive health and respiratory health. Topics included COPD, asthma, acid reflux, managing symptoms and medication.